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RUSSIAN

EXPERIMENT
ART: 1863-1922
CONSTRUCTIVISM RAYONNISM SUPREMATISM
including Kandinsky, Gabo, Malevich, Lissitzky,Tatlin, and others

256 illustrations, including 21 in full color


This is the first book to examine the Russian
contribution to what we now -call the
modern movement in art and architecture.
It reveals an activity and achievement which
have hitherto been almost unknown and
unrecognized, but which are now shown to

be of the greatest importance. The author


has tracked down periodicals, exhibition
catalogues, and other documents which arc

now very rare, and out o( them has re-

constructed the record of her period. She


has supported this with illustrations drawn
from all the important Western collections
of Russian art and also from the far more
important collections in Russian museums,
which have never been seen in the West.
Artists like Malevich, Tatlin, Rodchenko,
who have hitherto been only names to most
of us, are now given their full stature as

artists and personalities. They are also seen

as powerful formative influences on the


continental movements between the wars,
particularly the Bauhaus. The story is

exciting as well as important. From the


purely aesthetic point of view it tells of
historic experiments and discoveries. But
its greatest interest, perhaps, is in its account
of an attempt to integrate art with life and
society an attempt that was pursued with
passionate idealism through the revo-
lutionary years which gave the movement's
protagonists such a unique opportunity. In
its short-lived heyday, music, drama, poetry,
and all the industrial arts were embraced in

an experiment which attacked at the root


the problems which still concern the artist

today.
THE RUSSIAN EXPERIMENT
IN ART: 1863-1922
THE RUSSIAN
EXPERIMENT IN ART
1 863-1 922

CAMILLA GRAY

HARRY N. ABRAMS, INC. Publishers


NEW YORK
/ /'
ri

To my mother, to whom this book owes


its inspiration and realization

Standard Book Number: 8109-0465-9


Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 76-106290

Copyright 1962 in Great Britain by Thames and Hudson, London


Reissued 1970 in new format

All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this book may be

reproduced without the written permission of the publishers

Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York


Printed and bound in Great Britain

A i[^
Contents

Introduction 6

CHAPTER ONE
1860's-90's 9

CHAPTER TWO
1890-1905 37

CHAPTER THREE
1905-10 65

CHAPTER FOUR
1909-11 93

CHAPTER FIVE
1912-14 131

CHAPTER SIX
1914-17 185

CHAPTER SEVEN
1917-21 219

CHAPTER EIGHT
1921-22 244

Text References 277

Selected Bibliography 280

List of Illustrations 283

Index 292
Introduction

'Reality is superior to its imitation in art' - wrote Chermshevsky, the


aesthetic propagandist of the 1860s in Russia. 'Let us tear ourselves
away from our speculative activity [easel painting] and find a way to
real work!' - was the cry of the Constructivists in the 1920s. The
sixty years which divide these two quotations provide the scope of the
present study.
Throughout this time and as a constant theme, now blazoned forth,
now disguised, runs the idea of a renewal of art as a socially active
force - 'which must not reflect, imagine or interpret, but really build'
[the Constructivists] - 'to prevent the accusation that art is an empty
diversion to be despised' [Chernishevsky, the spokesman of the
book I have tried to trace the thread of this debate
'Wanderers']. In this
and the way in which it was worked out in art in Russia.
The debate was brought to a head in the work of Malevich and
Tatlin, of the Suprematists and Constructivists, when the idea of art
as a spiritual activity was juxtaposed to that of propaganda-art; the
artist-priest to the artist-engineer; art for today and the masses, and
art for tomorrow and the elite.
I should like to explain that it was these works and ideas of
Suprematism and Constructivism which first excited me and drew
me to this study. These works are thus the focus of this book and my
treatment of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century developments
has been governed by an attempt to trace back to the roots the ideas
which culminated in the pioneer work of Malevich and Tatlin.
My task has met with many difficulties, for the documentation on
this subject is rare and hard to find. There has been almost no general
account of the period of 1910-20 in Russian art and I have had to
turn to newspaper articles, unpublished memoirs, recollections of
those - often so contradictory - exhibition catalogues,
artists still living

random references in published memoirs and occasional references in


literary histories of the period which are far more numerous than
those dealing with painting. The piecing together of this incoherent
information dealing with a period of such historic importance but
immense complexity has been difficult.
I have many people to thank for their help and encouragement over
the four years during which I have been working on this book. I
would to thank Mr Jay Leyda who first made the ideas and
first like

personalities of my story come alive to me and Mr Alfred Barr who


has allowed me to use unpublished material from his personal archives
of Alexander Rodchenko; they have both given me invaluable help
and encouragement in the course of my researches. Others whom I
must thank for their practical help and advice are Professor Meyer
Schapiro, Mr Herbert Spencer, Professor George Heard Hamilton,
Mr M. Abramsky, the late Sir Herbert Read, the late Mr Eric
Gregory, Professor David Talbot Rice, Mr W. Sandberg, Mr J.B.
Neumann, Mrs Valerie Jensen, Lady Norton and Sir Isaiah Berlin.
There are others to whom I owe much Miss Violet Connolly for
:

first introducing me to Russia; Miss Dora Cowell and Mrs Anne

Fremantle who have made this book a possibility through their


generous support; and very specially to my sister Cecilia Gray for her
generous and patient co-operation in providing me with so much of
the photographic material.
I must also thank the following for providing me with photographs

Mr Eugene Rubin, Mr Andrzej Dyja, Miss Zoe Dominic and Mrs


Leslie Bonham-Carter. I must also acknowledge my thanks for
photographs to The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Yale Art
Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; The Hermitage, The Theatrical
Museum and The Russian Museum, Leningrad; and the Tretyakov
Gallery, Moscow.
I must also record my gratitude to the Directors and staff of the
above-mentioned institutions for the facilities with which they
provided me in the course of my studies likewise those of the Slavonic
:

Division of the New York Public Library; the Widener Library,


Cambridge, Massachusetts; the library of The Museum of Modern
Art, New York; the British Museum, London; St Antony's College,
Oxford; the School of Slavonic Studies, London University and most
particularly the Victoria and Albert Museum library in London where
I have received every attention and a lively co-operation during the

four years of my researches there. I must also acknowledge my


thanks to the House of Friendship organizations in Moscow and
Leningrad which provided me with invaluable assistance in forwarding
my researches in Russia.
Without the patient and generous co-operation of those surviving
artists who in the story I have tried to relate, little
took an active part
would have been must therefore thank most particularly,
possible. I

for their help and permission to reproduce documentation from their


personal archives, Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova; David
Burliuk and Yury Annenkov; Naum Gabo and Anton Pevsner,
Paul Mansurov, Vladimir Izdebsky, Zhenia Bogoslavskaya-Puni,
Bertold Lubetkin, Mart Stam, Hans Arp, Ivan Tschichold, Nelly
van Doesburg, Sonia Delaunay, Alexander Benois, Sergei Makovsky,
Dr Zarnower, Mr and Mrs Rostislav Dobuzhinsky, as well as many
others unnamed here.
I must thank the many friends whose interest and
Last but not least
encouragement has sustained my courage, among whom very
specially Katia Zoubtchenko and my brother Edmund.
Camilla Gray
CHAPTER ONE

mo's-M's

The cradle of the modern movement in Russian art can be traced


to the colony of artistswhich was brought together by Savva
Mamontov, the Russian railway tycoon of the 1 870s. On Abramtsevo,
his estate near Moscow, Mamontov surrounded himself with the most
progressive personalities of his day, not only painters, but composers,
singers, architects, art historians, archaeologists, writers and actors.
Together they constituted the first challenge to the all-powerful
Petersburg Academy of Art whose half-courtly, half-bureaucratic
system had entirely controlled the artistic life of the country since its

foundation by Catherine the Great in 1754. It was not until the 1870s
that the patronage of the Tsar, the aristocracy, and the army of
bureaucrats was replaced by the millionaire merchants of Moscow
of whom Mamontov was so illustrious an example.
'Mamontov's circle', as this colony of artists came to be called, was
drawn together by the common determination to create a new
Russian culture. It grew out of a group of artists who had declared
their secession from the Academy of Art in 1863 - two years after the
emancipation of the serfs. The thirteen artists who made this heroic
gesture of apparent economic suicide were inspired by ideals of
'bringing art to the people'. They called themselves the 'Wanderers'
because they thought to put their ideals into practice by taking
travelling exhibitions throughout the countryside. Like their con-
temporaries and friends, the writers Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and
Turgenev, and the composers Moussorgsky, Borodin and Rimsky-
Korsakov, these artists sought to justify their activity by making their
art 'useful' to society. They repudiated the philosophy of 'art for art's
sake' which they identified with the current academic tradition.
Centred in the Petersburg Academy, this tradition derived its
standards mainly from international neo-classicism, tempered by the
introduction of German romanticism (for example, the Nazarenes)
in the 1820s. The 'Wanderers' defied this tradition, saying that art
should be primarily concerned with, and subordinate to, reality. 'The
true function of art is and comment on it'; 'Reality is
to explain life
more beautiful than its art.' Such were the dogmas
representation in
proclaimed by Chernishevsky, the aesthetic propagandist of the
1

1860s in Russia, who together with Dobroliubov and Nekrassov had


a great influence among these artists, and were in large part the
spiritual directors of this nationalist movement in the arts.
The 'Wanderers' interpreted the current idea that art should be an
active force in the cause of social reform by laying an emphasis on
the subject-matter of their works. 'Only the content is able to refute
the accusation that art is an empty diversion
proclaimed Cherni-
. .
.'

shevsky, and they therefore sought, in at first an only too literal and
literary fashion, to depict the peasant as the new hero, and his innocence
and the austerity of his life as the all-important theme. This mission of
the 'Wanderers' to arouse compassion and sympathy for the common
man was an unprecedented subject for art in Russia, not only by
virtue of its 'social' impulse, but by its emphasis on the traditional
Russian way of life, for since Peter the Great's europeanization of the
country, everything Russian had been dismissed as barbarous and
boorish, and 'culture' had come to mean something essentially foreign.
The 'Wanderers' were not themselves directly involved with the
Slavophile movement which rejected the Western culture and
economic pattern which Peter the Great had introduced into Russia,
but many of the following generation of artists turned away from the
West and sought to create a new national culture which would be
based on the Russian peasant and the long-neglected national artistic
traditions. The Slavophiles felt that Russia's was a peculiar destiny
which would pursue an historical pattern of development radically
different from that of the West; a destiny inspired by the mission of
Orthodox Christianity to the West, in which Moscow and the former
glory of Muscovy would supplant the present sovereignty of Peters-
burg and all that she stood for. It was this turning to Moscow which
is significant in art.
For Moscow became the centre of this nationalist movement which
lies at the base of the modern movement in Russian art. The repudia-
tion of international neo-classicism which had dominated the Russian
artistic field since the end of the eighteenth century, and the ensuing

rediscovery of the national artistic heritage, was the starting-point of


a modern school of painting in Russia.

10
It was, as we have seen, among the Moscow merchants that this

new movement found its patrons. The 'Wanderers' found an im-


mediate and faithful supporter in the gentle, modest P. M. Tretyakov,
who after consistently buying paintings from these artists for thirty
years gave his collection to the city of Moscow in 1 892. The Tretyakov
Gallery, as it is still called today, was the first museum of painting to
be devoted entirely to Russian works of art. Other members of the
same class whose discerning patronage made significant contributions
to culture in nineteenth-century Russia were Soldatenkov, who
sponsored the publication of many scientific, educational and cultural
works; Bakhrushin, with his pioneer collection of theatrical art; and
Belyayev, the patron of the 'five' nationalist composers - Rimsky-
Korsakov, Cui, Balakirev, Moussorgsky and Borodin. In the early
years of this century the tradition was continued by many others,
among whom were the Shchukin brothers with their collections of
Oriental art, Russian folk-art, and French Impressionist and Post-
Impressionist painting. This latter collection of Sergei Shchukin,
together with that of a friend and contemporary, Ivan Morosov, is
now housed in the national museums of Moscow and Leningrad
and is still considered to be the finest of its kind in the world.
But more than any other it was Savva Mamontov who directed
the course of the modern movement in painting in Russia. Himself
a singer, sculptor, stage director and dramatist, he founded the first

Russian private opera company and was an abundantly generous


patron of art, the inspiration of three successive generations of painters.
His great wealth came to him as the builder of the pioneer railroads
which ran from Archangel to Murmansk and again south to the
Donetz Basin bringing coal to the north.
Oddly enough, it was in Rome that he and his wife Elizabeth first
came in touch with contemporary Russian painters. They had gone
there for the first of a number of winters, in 1872, partly for the sake

of their young son Andrei's health, and partly to indulge their own
interests. For they were both already deeply interested in art; Mamon-
tov had trained as a singer in Italy, and his wife, a devoutly religious
woman, was involved with the revival of the liturgy of the Orthodox
Church and was particularly interested in the adaptations of Late
Roman art to Early Christian uses. It was Elizabeth Mamontov
whose forceful personality and deep religious convictions later

II
inspired the building of a little church at Abramtsevo which, as we
shall see, led directly to the practical revival of Russian medieval art
and architecture, an influence which it is difficult to overestimate in
the development of modern art in Russia.
The circle of Russian painters which the young Mamontovs dis-
covered in Rome was headed by two adherents of the 'Wanderers'
ideals. One of these, the sculptor Antokolsky (i 843-1902), was among
the earliest members of the group and enjoyed an enormous popular
success in his time. The other, the painter Vassily Polenov (1844-
1927), was from Moscow and had studied at the Moscow College and
been influenced by the first Russian landscape painter, Savrassov.
Polenov spent much of his life at Abramtsevo, and was possibly the
most important personality in the creation of the colony. The third
outstanding figure in this emigre Russian art world was the young
art historian Adrian Prakhov who, like the artists, was studying in
Rome on a scholarship (his from Petersburg University, that of the
artists from their Academies). Later, as a professor, Prakhov began

the restoration of medieval works of art and architecture in Russia -


condemned as disastrous by subsequent restorers.
The young Mamontovs made immediate friends with this little
band of art lovers and a very lively programme of 'mutual education'
was organized between them. The organizing spirit was largely
Prakhov, who would conduct daily expeditions round the ancient
capital indicating items of interest in the museums, ruins and cata-
combs. At other times they would all gather in the artists' studios,
and paint or carve. Antokolsky gave Savva Mamontov lessons in
sculpture, for which he soon showed much aptitude; sculpture
remained a favourite occupation throughout his life, proving of
great solace to him when he was confined to his house under guard
for a year, after his financial crash in 1 890. In the evenings the group
would meet and talk of their plans for the creation of a new Russian
culture. This new culture was not to be confined only to the arts.
The Mamontovs no less than the painters and Prakhov were inspired
by ideals of bettering the life of the people. When they had first
bought Abramtsevo and the surrounding large estate in 1870, the
young couple had vowed that they would continue the tradition of
its former owner, the well-known writer of the 1840s, Sergei
Aksakov. Aksakov was a close friend of Gogol, who had been a

12
i Leonid Pasternak, Moscow Artists, 1902. Some members of the Abramtsevo
colony: in the centre, thumbs in his waistcoat, is Konstantin Korovin; Valentin
Serov is seen drawing at the table, and behind him Apollinarius Vasnetsov

frequent visitor at Abramtsevo, where he actually wrote part of


Dead Souls. Many other of the nationalist' writers of the 1840s had
also been at home there; what Abramtsevo had been to the writers
of the forties, it was to be for the painters of the seventies. The
Mamontovs began their tenancy with the practical gesture of building
a hospital on the estate in 1871, following a cholera epidemic. The

following year a school was added, which was temporarily housed in


an empty wing of the hospital, but later established in a traditional
peasant's wooden house which had been bodily transported from the
neighbouring village of Bibinok. It was the first school in the region.
The teaching and organization of this school for the children of the
neighbouring peasants was undertaken by Elizabeth Mamontov, and
it was as an adjunct to this school that a sculpture studio was first

installed at Abramtsevo, built in the 'Russian' style by the architect


Ropet. This was later taken over as a professional enterprise and

13
became one of the chief activities of the colony. It was a workshop
both for craftsmen skilled in traditional arts, and for artists of the
colony who were interested in this practical revival of ancient
artistic traditions, of which Abramtsevo in retrospect emerges as the

pioneering force.
In the spring of 1874, when the Mamontovs returned home from
their winter in Italy, they were accompanied by some of their friends
from Rome. This year they also stopped for a few days in Paris and
there met Ilya Repin, a colleague and close friend of Polenov's, who
was studying in Paris at this time. Both were eager to return to Russia,
finding little to interest them in Paris, and under Mamontov's warm
invitation and Polenov's eager support, Repin decided to move to
Moscow. Also living in Paris at this time was the widow of the opera
composer, Serov. Serov had been a colleague and great friend of
Mamontov's, and so with typical generosity he invited the widow
and her nine-year-old son Valentin to come and live with him at
Abramtsevo. With Polenov, Repin, the Serovs and the Mamontovs
as foundation-members, the Abramtsevo colony thus came into

existence. It was augmented in 1879 by the Vasnetsov painter-


brothers, Victor and Apollinarius.
From now on a communal life of immense interest was carried
on by Mamontov's circle. In winter they met at Savva Mamontov's
attractive and comfortable house on the Spasskaya Sadovaya in
Moscow, where they held communal readings and drawing ses-
sions and put on theatrical productions to which the Moscow
intelligentsia streamed in eagerness and delight.
In the summer they all moved to Abramtsevo or near-by places.
Here Repin lived for several years with his family Polenov made
. . .

studies of its woods and streams . . Apollinarius Vasnetsov aban-


.

doned Petersburg and here found himself beginning to paint 'in


the bogatyr spirit'.. . Here Serov lived for many years. 2
.

Ilya Repin (1 844-1930) later described himself as 'a man of the


sixties', and although he belongs to the second generation of nationalist

painters, his philosophy and work exemplifies the ideals of the early
pioneers. He was, moreover, a far more articulate and distinguished
master of his medium than any of the original 'thirteen'. One of
77/. 2 Repin's best-known works is They Did Not Expect Him. This painting,
which was executed at Abramtsevo, is one of his few full-sized paint-

14
ings, for Rcpin spent much time working on studies before executing
a painting in full-scale. These studies are generally considered to be
finer than his large works, and in many of those executed at Abramt-
sevo one can discern an extremely talented draughtsman with a real

perception of nature. However, he subordinated the natural artist to

his social ideals: 'After the crude propaganda style of the men of the
sixties, a movement of intellectual nationalism arose which valued a
painting for its broad idea and poster-style of expression: in technique
an intellectual anonymity was sought. Even the great talent of Repin
was diluted dead atmosphere; the lack of artistic intensity gave
in this
to his work a Thus wrote the biographer of
characterless form.'
Repin's great pupil, Mikhail Vrubel. 3

2 Ilya Repin, They Did Not Expect Him, 1884


Polenov, the great friend of Repin - also of Tolstoy and Turgenev
- was one of the first painters of the Russian countryside. The Russian
school of landscape painting was a development peculiarly connected
with Moscow. Since its foundation in the 1840s, the Moscow College
of Painting and Sculpture (in 1865 an architectural faculty was added)
had laid stress on plein air studies of nature. From the very beginning
we find, therefore, a fundamental difference between the Petersburg
and Moscow schools. This difference is an outstanding characteristic
of the modern movement in Russia. Not only did the Moscow
College encourage study from nature which was almost unheard of
at the Petersburg Academy, it was also a more liberal institution,
depending less on the court and more on private sponsorship than its
Petersburg counterpart. In the 1850s a complete break was made in
the Moscow College from the Petersburg academic tradition of
teaching - a three-year course of drawing from prints and plaster
casts of classical sculpture - and from this date on a free choice of
subjects was introduced for the students in Moscow and an increasing
stress laid on study from nature. In the sixties the first students to have
graduated from the Moscow College returned to it as teachers.
Among these was Savrassov (1830-97), who is known as 'the father
of the Russian school of landscape painting'. Savrassov's landscape
paintings were, however, few and it was left to his followers, Polenov
and Shishkin, to develop this part of his work. These painters were
still hampered by a stylized, literary approach in their work, and it is

not until Isaac Levitan (1 860-1 900) that the Russian school of land-
scape painting produced a really creative and expressive master.
Polenov's contribution to the Abramtsevo colony, however, was
not primarily as a painter, but rather as an archaeologist and teacher.
In the Moscow College, where he was appointed a professor in 1882,
his liberal influence and forceful personality encouraged such painters
as Levitan and Korovin, both of whom he was responsible for intro-
ducing to the Abramtsevo colony as theatrical designers in the 1880s.
During the early formative years of the colony, Polenov contributed
much scientific and archaeological knowledge to the group. His
influence was particularly significant in the building of the little
III. 3 Abramtsevo church, begun in 1880.
The idea of building this church was prompted by the severe
flooding of the local. river which bounded the Abramtsevo estate in

16
the spring of 1 880, thus preventing the local population from reaching
a church that Easter. It was decided therefore to build one on the estate
against such another occasion. The idea was taken up with immense
enthusiasm by the members of the colony, who all began doing
designs for the building. After much discussion it was decided to
build the church in the style of a medieval Novgorod church accord-
ing to Apollinarius Vasnetsov's (1 845-1 926) design. To forward the
project Polenov dug out many archaeological documents which had
belonged to his father, a pioneer archaeologist who had inspired his
son with his own enthusiasm for medieval Russian architecture and
painting. He had taken the sixteen-year-old boy round the country-
side on horseback, pointing out the surviving examples of this
tradition, and Polenov, who was already fond of drawing, had made
many sketches on this journey which he now produced in Abramtsevo
for general study. Elizabeth Mamontov read aloud excerpts from

3 The Abramtsevo church, 1880-2

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historical works while discussion about the church raged among the
colony's members. Everyone contributed designs, ideas, scraps of
historical information - there was little relevant material published
at this date, as scholarly research into Russian medieval art had only
begun in the 1850s. 4
In fact, even icon paintings were almost entirely unknown in their
original state, for centuries of overpainting and the tradition of
encasing paintings in gold and silver had obscured their surfaces. The
discovery of icons as works of art and the consequent demand for
restoration to their original brilliant colour and purity of line was a
slow affair in Russia and was not systematized until after the Revolution
of 19 1 7. Scholarly work on the history of icon paintings began at the
beginning of the nineteenth century with the Stroganov family, who
started collecting together the commissions that their ancestors had
given to contemporary painters for their famous seventeenth-century
workshop. The Abramtsevo colony was the pioneering force in the
artistic application of these early scientific studies and discoveries.
As a result of this group-examination of Russian medieval art and
history, inspired by the idea of building a church on the estate, the
Abramtsevo colony decided to visit Yaroslavl and Rostov-the-Great,
where some of the finest buildings and wall-paintings were to be
seen. The expedition was organized by Polenov. They returned
loaded with sketches, and work on the little church began in earnest.
Many alterations were made to Apollinarius Vasnetsov's original
plans, Polenov in particular contributing ornamental designs inspired
by carvings on local peasant buildings. While looking for such motifs,
Ills 4, 6 Polenov decided to bring back a carved lintel from a neighbouring
village house which had particularly pleased him. This was the
foundation of the museum of national peasant art which still exists at
Abramtsevo and which later was the direct source of inspiration for
the revolutionary theatrical designs of the Mamontov 'Private
Ills 11,12 Opera': for instance, Rimsky-Korsakov's Snegurochka.
The little Abramtsevo church was completed at the end of 1882.
It was the first communal labour of the colony. Everyone had con-

tributed to its decoration and even to its physical erection. The


elaborate wooden ornaments were carved and painted by the artists
in the newly established workshop on the estate. Repin, Polenov,
Mikhail Nesterov and Apollinarius Vasnetsov together painted the
4 Traditional peasant carving from the
Abramtsevo Museum collection begun by
Vassily Polenov

Peuta* docna.
Hax. I AdpajntntKOM Myjrr

5 Table designed and executed on the


Princess Tenisheva's Talashkino estate
near Smolensk which was organized on
the pattern of Abramtsevo. Designed by
A. Zinoviev, c. 1905

6 The Abramtsevo Museum


7 Ceramic stove designed by
Mikhail Vrubel in the Abramtsevo
pottery, c. 1899

///. 8 iconostasis and wall-paintings. The women, Elizabeth Mamontov,


Maria Yakunchikova and Elena Polenova, embroidered the vestments
and covers to designs by Polenov. Victor Vasnetsov not only designed
the mosaic floor in the form of a single spreading flower, but in his
enthusiasm personally helped to lay it.

The first ceremony held church was Polenov's wedding


in the little
- to Maria Yakunchikova, Savva Mamontov's cousin, who had
joined the colony to help with the work on the church. Yakunchikova
was one of the first female artists in Russia; another was Polenov's
sister, Elena Polenova, who was also an historian - indeed it was her

interest in Russian history which had attracted her to the colony's


work of reviving the styles of the Middle Ages. The two women were

20
8 The Iconostasis of the
Abramtsevo church. The paintings
on it were executed by
Apollinarius Vasnetsov, Ilya Repin
and Vassily Polenov

the most and persistent protagonists of this revival of


enthusiastic
folk-art traditions atAbramtsevo, and soon they took over the wood-
carving and embroidery workshops which were by now flourishing
on the estate.
After the completion of the little church, interest in the revival of
medieval Russian art grew rather than diminished. Both the Vasnetsov
brothers began to specialize in historical reconstructions of medieval
Russia: Victor in icons and fairy-tale scenes, Apollinarius in the
pictorial re-creation of medieval Moscow, to which he devoted the
rest of his life.
Actually the first painter to apply himself to the pictorial recon-
struction of medieval Russia had been Vyacheslav Shwartz (1838-69).

21
Shwartz was an and it was in the course of his studies that
historian,
he conceived of reviving a forgotten past in all its detail by
this idea
means of painting. His pictures are frankly those of an historian, and it
is for his attention to detail and painstaking accuracy that they are

valuable.
Vassily Surikov (i 848-1912) was the first of the 'Wanderers' to
combine national ideals with an urge to find a new language in which
to express those ideals. Born in Krasnoyarsk, an outpost of Siberia,
Surikov set out for Petersburg on horseback in 1868 to join the
Academy. He was a year on his journey, for on his way he made
frequent and leisurely stops in the ancient towns through which he
passed. In particular Kazan and Nizhni-Novgorod impressed this
twenty-year-old Cossack, but it was Moscow that bowled him over.

'Coming to Moscow, to that centre of national life, I immediately


saw my way,' he wrote later. 5 Surikov's masterpiece, as it is generally
77/. 9 considered, The Boyarina Morosova (1887), depicting the persecution
of the 'Old Believers' by the patriarch Nikon, is set in the streets of
medieval Moscow. It is an enormous painting - both in size and
scale it is in the nature of a wall-painting. The pictorial construction
of this work reminds one of the great Italian monumental painters
whose work Surikov so much admired - Michelangelo, Tintoretto,
Titian and, more than any other, Veronese. It is full of movement -
the fresh, solid colour glances from form to form, gesture carries on
to gesture, until finally one's eye is arrestedby the central figure of
the Boyarina with her dramatic uplifted hand and pointing finger.
This dynamic quality had always been a fundamental characteristic
of Russian painting, and in Surikov's work it re-emerges from the
medieval traditions for the first time. With Surikov the peculiar
colour range of Byzantine art is likewise revived - the rich browns,
sombre reds and clear yellow which we find again in Natalia Gon-
charova's work. A decorative surface rhythm and strong horizontal
are other characteristics common to Russian art, both ancient and
modern, and likewise first recovered in the work of Surikov.
Surikov was a frequent guest at Abramtsevo, but he was not a
'member' of the colony. He did not, for example, take part in their
communal activities such as the Sunday evening readings. These
readings from the classics gradually developed into mimed pageants.
From pageants they had grown by 1881 to full-blown theatrical

22
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r j*#<^ * MM.
47.

Ms flrV .
H *
w

,:'*'::
...
Ai

9 Vassily Surikov, The Boyarina Morosova, 1-7

productions which Savva Mamontov would stage in the winter in


his Moscow house. The script for these early amateur productions
was usually by Mamontov himself and would re-tell some folk-tale
or historic episode. Everyone took part; Savva Mamontov would
demand from each according to his gifts, which were often most
unexpectedly revealed to their owners. Thus Victor Vasnetsov found
himself painting theatre decor, although he had, as he himself later
confessed, not the slightest idea how to approach his task. In this use
of a painter, rather than the traditional artisan, to paint sets, the idea
of realistic theatrical decor was born, which directly influenced
Western Europe. It grew from the work of Vasnetsov, and of his
followers Korovin, Levitan, Golovin and Roerich, who all worked
:

for Mamontov's 'Private Opera' theatre productions during the


1 8 80s. By the 1890s the Imperial theatres could no longer ignore
Mamontov's revolutionary use of professional painters to paint decor
and also began replacing the craftsman stage-designer of tradition
with artists such as these. Finally, with Diaghilev, they were intro-
duced to Europe. Where before the backcloth had been a decorative
background to the acting, it now became an integral part of the pro-
duction. This brought about, in its turn, a revolution in the idea of
theatre. The production began to be looked at as a whole, and the

23
io Mikhail Vrubel,
Egyptian costume design,
i89o's

actor had to subordinate his performance to the other elements:


decor, costume, gesture, music, language. Thus a synthesis emerged,
a dramatic unity. Stanislavsky, a cousin of Mamontov's, who often
used to come and perform in these domestic productions of the early
1880s, has attributed to them the birth of his 'realistic theatre', which
in its turn has been so influential in the West.
Mamontov's venture into amateur theatrical production soon led
to the founding of his professional 'Private Opera' in Moscow. It
was made possible by a recent edict of the Tsar's, and it meant that
a new field of activity was opened to the artist, and one peculiarly
suited to the Russian who has such a happy gift for decorative art,
and to whom movement is life. It opened in 1883 with Rimsky-
Ills 11,12 Korsakov's opera Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden) with stage set-
tings by Victor Vasnetsov. As time went on, the 'Private Opera'
introduced not only the music of Rimsky-Korsakov, Dargomuishsky,
Moussorgsky and Borodin to the Russian public, but also the mag-
nificent voice of Fyodor Shalyapin.

24
11 Victor Vasnctsov,
Snegurochka,
a costume design, 1883
%

12 Victor Vasnetsov,
Snegurochka,
design for a stage set, 1883
-
*

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1
'

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13 Konstantin Korovin, Don Quixote, stage set for Scene 4, 1906

14 Isaac Levitan, Above Eternal Peace, 1894


Mamontov's theatre thus began attracting the younger generation
of painters. Polcnov introduced two of the most brilliant students
from the Moscow College: Isaac Levitan, who has already been
discussed, and Konstantin Korovin (i 861-1939). Korovin was the
first Russian artist to reflect the art of the French Impressionists, with
which he came in contact in 1885, on his first visit to Paris. In the same
year Korovin met the Mamontovs and almost immediately became
an intimate member of their household. More than any other, he
was responsible for bringing about the revolution in theatrical design,
and it was in this medium that he most successfully interpreted ///. 13
French Impressionist ideas. He was an important liberal influence in
the Moscow College, where he was appointed a professor in 1901,
and almost all the avant-garde of the first decade of this century were
his pupils and of his Abramtsevo friend, Serov -Kusnetsov, Larionov,
Goncharova, Tatlin, Konchalovsky, Mashkov, Lentulov, Falk, not
to mention the many Futurist poets who began as painters - the
Burliuk brothers, Kruchenikh and Mayakovsky.
Valentin Serov (1865-191 1) was almost like a son to the Mamontovs.
As we have seen, he had come as a small boy to live at Abramtsevo
with his widowed mother in 1 874. He thus grew up in the atmosphere
of constant creative activity which characterized the Mamontov

15 Valentin Serov, October. Domotkanoiw, 1895


PI
household. From a very early age Serov was given drawing lessons
by Repin, who was very fond of the little boy, and he soon showed
himself to be a remarkably precocious draughtsman. He would catch
the likeness of a model often more quickly and surely than the older
artists in the merry 'drawing competitions' which were so much part

of the gay, ideal life of Abramtsevo. This talent for catching a likeness
Serov later developed and he became the most successful and brilliant
portraitist in the 1890s and first decade of this century. But before this
he was a remarkable landscape painter in a more sensuous and less Ills 15,16
nostalgic vein than his master Levitan. Serov, like Korovin, was a ///. 14
most beneficial influence in the Moscow College where he taught
from 1900 up till 1909. Though Larionov reports that he was too
busy to be a really good teacher, he was so superb a technical master
of the many media in which he practised, that his personal professional
attitude to composition and extraordinarily high standard of tech-
nical discipline did not fail to impress students at a time when such
accomplishment was all too rare in Russia. Serov, like Korovin, was
one of the few Muscovites to bridge the gap between the two art
worlds. He collaborated on the essentially Petersburg World of Art
magazine (which will be discussed in the next chapter) and took part
in this group's exhibitions which brought together the artistic

avant-garde of the 1890s.


In 1890 Serov introducedhis close friend Mikhail Vrubel (1856-

1910) to Mamontov. was to prove the turning-point of Vrubel's


It

artistic life. He had had a brilliant early career at the Petersburg

Academy, which he entered in 1880. There it was his good fortune


to be taught by Chistyakov, an outstanding draughtsman, a great
admirer of the Italian Fortuni. Chistyakov counted among his pupils
almost all the most talented 'Wanderers' - Repin and Surikov, and
among the younger generation, Serov and Vrubel. All these artists,
and in particular Vrubel, paid tribute to the teaching of this master
who instilled in them so excellent an academic discipline.
Even before he had graduated, Vrubel's teachers at the Academy
recommended him to Professor Prakhov, who came to the school
in 1883 to find students who would help him with the restoration
of the twelfth-century Church of Saint Cyril in Kiev which he had
undertaken. This opportunity to become familiar with Byzantine
art at first hand and under such intimate conditions proved decisive

29

16 Valentin Serov,
Portrait of the actress Ermoloim, 1905
in Vrubel's development. At this point began that relentless search
for a new vocabulary which was the driving force through-
pictorial
out his work. As he himself wrote to his sister: 'The mania of being
absolutely obliged to say something new does not leave me . .only
.

one thing is clear to me, that my researches are exclusively in the


technical field/ 6
Vrubel's work was to help restore the original wall-
in Saint Cyril
paintings and, in cases where these were quite lost, to paint new ones
in a sympathetic style. It was a task which delighted the young student
and to which, he said towards the end of his sad life, he would most

17 Mikhail Vrubel,
Valery Briussov,
1905

18 Mikhail Vrubel,
The Dance of Tamara,
1890
of all wish to return. It was here that Vrubel discovered the eloquence
of line

The chief mistake of the contemporary artists who try to revive


the Byzantine style is of appreciation for the Byzantine
their lack
artists' use of drapery. They make of it a mere sheet where they

[the Byzantine artists] revealed so much wit. Byzantine painting


differs fundamentally from three-dimensional art. Its whole
essence lies in the ornamental arrangement of form which
emphasizes the flatness of the wall. 7

This use of ornamental rhythms to point up the flat surface of the


canvas was constantly exploited by Vrubel. An example
of this is
77/. 18 The Dance of Tamara, a watercolour of 1890. This is one of the series
by Vrubel illustrating Lermontov's poem The Demon, commissioned
through the banker Konchalovsky for a jubilee edition published in
1890. It was Vrubel's first Moscow commission. In The Dance of
Tamara Vrubel has juxtaposed the formal elements to create a com-
plex surface-pattern, a rhythmic patchwork design. The work
divides into three different planes which merge into each other like
dream-images - the melancholy brooding demon leaning against a
rock surrounded by desolate mountains, the lovely Tamara dancing
with her elegant Georgian bridegroom on a rich carpet at the foot
of a carpeted stair, and the strumming orchestra whose music seems
to hammer at the richly ornamented scene from another world. The
players have been arbitrarily cut short by the edge of the canvas, and
thus impinge on our own world as they complete themselves in real
space.
The passionate study of Byzantine art which Kiev inspired in
Vrubel took him next to Venice. In Kiev he had discovered line; in
Venice he discovered colour. The mosaics of San Marco and the work
of Carpaccio and Bellini were his particular preoccupations. During
this year in Italy he worked with that intense concentration which
he retained throughout his life even in times of appalling isolation
and poverty.
In 1885 Vrubel returned to Russia, to Odessa, but he failed to find
work. Then began a period of great physical, but above all, mental
Ills 18, 21 anguish. He began the series of 'Demon' pictures inspired by Ler-
montov whose image came to haunt him more and more persistently.

32
Vrubcl described it as 'A which unites in itself the male and
spirit

female appearances, which is not so much evil as suffering


a spirit

and wounded, but withal a powerful and noble being.' 8 As this


symbol came increasingly to dominate his work, his mental break-
down became more apparent. One can trace the development of its
mood. From a confiding presence, a soaring sorrowful spirit, it
becomes a hostile sentry and a glowering, angry head. Finally, in the
last years of his creative life, it is a crushed or swooning body, sucked

into a giddy whirlpool. In some of his last works Vrubel resurrects


the figure as a massive head with tragic staring eyes a pure spirit which
:

looms out of the mist, dominant at last, but with its empire gone.
During the years 1885-8 Vrubcl lived a poverty-stricken life in
Kiev, to which he had returned, after his short stay in Odessa, with
memories of so much former happiness. In 1 887 his hopes for working
again on religious monumental painting were revived by the announce-
ment of a competition for designs for the new Cathedral of Saint
Vladimir. This church had been begun in 1862, in the full tide of
Slavophile enthusiasm, to celebrate the millennium of the Russian
nation. Although Vrubel more than any other contemporary artist
would seem to be the obvious person to be given the commission,
Victor Vasnetsov, fresh from his work on the little Abramtsevo
church, won the competition instead. Vasnetsov's designs were weak
and derivative, altogether lacking in understanding of the peculiar
medium of monumental painting in which Vrubel had already shown
such mastery. Vrubel himself had the final bitter experience of being
offered the job of designing ornamental panels on the lower side walls
of the church. These, with his innate humility, he executed with an
intuition for ornamental decorative motifs which again and again
strikes us in his work.
Apart from his work on monumental painting, Vrubel had con-
centrated largely on watercolour during these last ten years; he
considered this medium to be the most exacting discipline. While
still at the Academy he and his intimate companion Valentin Serov
had taken seriously to the study of nature which was so foreign to
the tradition of their institution. Both of them were pupils of Repin,
but Vrubel soon violently reacted against the philosophy of his master.
It is interesting to read his reaction to the 'Wanderers' ' exhibition of
1883 at which a painting by Repin was they; iece de resistance: 'Form, the

33
:

most pre-eminent plastic quality, has been abandoned: a few bold,


talented strokes is the extent of the artist's communion with nature,
he is with impressing the spectator as forcefully
entirely engrossed
as possible with his ideas.' 9 In the same letter Vrubel rejects the

'Wanderers' interpretation of art as a weapon for social propaganda


'

The artist should not become the slave of the public: he himself
is the best judge of his works, which he must respect and not lower
its significance of that of a publicity stunt ... to steal that delight
which differentiates a spiritual approach to a work of art, from that
with which one regards an opened printed page, can even lead to
a complete atrophy in the demand for such delights and that is to :

deprive man of the best part of his life. . . .

It was shortly after these remarks that we are told he began reading
Kant, which strengthened his belief in the study of nature. Vrubel was
not only at home in contemporary German philosophy, but was very

19 Mikhail Vrubel, Vase of Flowers, 1904


20 Mikhail Vrubel,
Still-life of Roses,
c. 1900

widely read in the classics. He was an outstanding Latin scholar, a


rare accomplishment in Russia at this date. In many ways he belonged
more to Pushkin's generation than to his own provincial world which
all but rejected him.

More than any other artist Vrubel was the inspiration to the avant-
garde in Russia during the next twenty years. He might be termed
the Russian Cezanne, for they share a number of characteristics: both
artists bridge the centuries in their work, and not only the centuries,

but the two visions which so radically divide the nineteenth century
from the twentieth; 'modern art' from the art of Western Europe
since the Renaissance and the birth of 'easel painting'.
Like Cezanne, Vrubel met with little recognition during his life-
time; what little he had was almost entirely due to the vision and
efforts of Savva Mamontov with whom he worked in the theatre,
and in the Abramtsevo workshops, and for whom he executed almost
his only paintings.

35
y r^" -;

It* ..: yft^

..
,
1

21 Mikhail Vrubel, sketch for an illustration to the jubilee edition of


Lcrmontov's poem The Demon published in 1890

Unlike his friend Serov, it was notso much landscapes and a direct
interest in nature that engrossed him. Most of his drawings are studies
of flowers, but not of flowers growing in the fields in their natural
Ills ig, 20 environment; they are penetrating close-ups of the tangled interplay
of forms, giving them in their artificial isolation a peculiar dramatic
rhythm. Or, again, a vase of flowers whose play of jostling forms
cascade in a splendid curling mass. Vrubel is at his greatest in these
exquisite watercolour and pencil sketches. His searching pencil
attacks the model from every viewpoint: in transparent interweaving
patterns, in balancing mass against mass, in forms built up in cleaving
angled thrusts, in mosaic-like patterning. It is for this tireless, ex-
haustive examination of the possibilities of pictorial representation
that the next generations so revered Vrubel, as well as for his extra-
ordinary imaginative vision. Although he formulated no new pictorial
vocabulary and founded no school, he made possible the experiments
of the following decades; he pointed the way.

36
CHAPTER TWO

1890-1905

The 'World of Art' movement in Russia was similar in make-up,


contemporary in time and parallel in its historical role, to the French
Nabi group. It emerged from a schoolboy society, the 'Nevsky
Pickwickians', who had formed themselves into this 'society for self-
education' under the leadership of Alexander Benois in the late 1880s.
The school they all attended, May College, was a private upper-
middle-class institution for the children of the well-to-do intelli-
gentsia of Saint Petersburg, many of whom were of foreign descent;
such was the typical background of the members of the 'World of
Art' which emerged as a movement in the early 1890s. Paralleling
the English and European 'Art Nouveau' movements, it came to
stand for the artistic avant-garde in Russia in the 1890s and the early
years of this century.
In his own account of its history, Benois describes the 'World of
Art' as a society, an exhibiting organization, and a magazine.

I consider that the 'World of Art' should not be understood as


any one of these three things separately, but all in one; more
accurately as a kind of community which lived its own life, with
its own peculiar interests and problems and which tried in a

number of ways to influence society and to inspire in it a desirable


attitude to art - art understood in its broadest sense, that is to say
including literature and music. 1

Alexander Benois (1 870-1960) was the initiator of the May College


and remained the intellectual force behind the 'World of Art'
society
movement. Painter, theatrical designer, producer, scholar, art critic,
art historian, is the epitome of what the 'World of Art' came
Benois
to stand for, the renewal not only of art, but of the whole man, not
only of painting but of art which embraces the whole of life; the
idea of art as an instrument for the salvation of mankind, the artist
the dedicated priest, and his art the medium of eternal truth and

37
beauty. In short, the philosophy which has been much abused as
'art for art's sake'.

Alexander Benois was born in 1870 in Saint Petersburg of mixed


German, French and Italian ancestry. The Benois family belonged to
that foreign colony in Saint Petersburg which had existed ever since
Peter the Great had first begun importing artists, composers and
architects from the West. Since the eighteenth century it had con-
tributed enormously to Russian culture, and many of its families,
like the Benois, produced a succession of talented artists. The Benois
themselves had arrived in Russia in the late eighteenth century, but
it was chiefly from the maternal side, the Venetian Cavos family, that

the artistic talent derived. Caterino-Cavos, the son of the Director of


the Venice Theatre, was a highly successful composer and organist,
but after the of the Republic he fled his native city and was
fall

appointed Director of Music to the Imperial Theatres in Saint Peters-


burg. He settled there with his family, and his son, Alberto Cavos,
became a well-known theatrical architect, designer of the Mariinsky
(now the Kirov) Theatre in Leningrad and of the Bolshoi Theatre
in Moscow. Camilla Cavos, Alberto's daughter, married Nicholas
Benois in 1848. Nicholas Benois was by birth half-French and half-
German. As a student at the Petersburg Academy of Art he was
awarded, in 1836, a gold medal in architecture and, following the
current tradition, went to Italy. Here he made the acquaintance of the
Russo-German colony of artists, the German Romantic painter
Overbeck, and the Russians Ivanov (the painter) and Gogol. The
influence of these artists and writers and in particular the ideas of the
German Nazarenes for the revival of medieval architecture, had a
profound influence on the young architect. He returned home inspired
to bring about a similar revival in Russian architecture.
This atmosphere of romantic ideals in which Alexander Benois
grew up shaped his artistic taste, and through him that of the 'World
of Art'. The family was not attracted by the Russian Populist ideas
of the 1 860s and 1870s which they felt to be provincial and barbarous,
and unlike many of their contemporaries they did not cut themselves
off from the West. On the contrary, partly because of their mixed
ancestry, they were familiar with contemporary French and German
as well as Italian ideas. This international culture was a basic character-
istic of the members of the 'World of Art' who felt it their mission
to restore to Russia the culture which had been lost during the reign
of the 'Wanderers'. But they did not envisage the return of a European-
dominated culture in Russia. On the contrary, they believed that
Russia should not return to the status of a provincial outpost of
Western Europe, nor remain the stronghold of an isolated national
tradition. Their aim was to create in Russia an essentially international
centre which would for the first time contribute to the mainstream of
Western culture. To do this they set about restoring contact again
with German, French and English ideas, as well as by encouraging an
interest in the national heritage, not only that of medieval Russia to
which the Abramtsevo colony had dedicated themselves, but also to
the much neglected art produced under Peter and Catherine the Great
which had been completely dismissed by the 'Wanderers' as alien.
Alexander became the moving figure in this ambitious programme.
The 'Nevsky Pickwickians' consisted of Benois's school-friends,
chief among whom were Dmitri Filosofov, Konstantin Somov and
Walter Nuvel. Filosofov was a charming, elegant and beautiful boy,
the son of a prominent member of the government, an aristocrat who
had married a famous beauty. Like Benois's parents, they were both
elderly when their son was born and his father died before he was
grown up. This was perhaps another reason for the extreme sophistica-
tion of these young men, of whom it was said they were 'world-weary
in their twenties'. Madame Filosofov was famous not only as a
fashionable hostess whose drawing-room was the centre of the
intelligent minor aristocracy, but also as a very cultivated person in
her own right who had been a founder of the first 'Women's University
Courses' in Russia. Filosofov was the most literary member of the
group, although he was not himself a creative writer. It was he who
later introduced Merezhkovsky, the Symbolist religious thinker, who
contributed the 'mystical' vein to the group's discussions. Later, when
the magazine was being produced, Filosofov ran the literary section
which published the early work of Blok, Bely and Balmont, the
representatives of the first generation of Symbolists in Russian
literature.
A strong musical interest was contributed by Walter Nuvel, who,
like Benois, was of mixed German and French descent and grew up
trilingual. Konstantin Somov, another early, though not at first very
active, member of the schoolboy society, was the son of the Director

39
of the Hermitage Museum who later contributed much to the pictorial
section of the World of Art magazine. There were other May College
members of the 'Nevsky Pickwickians', but in 1890, when they all
left the college, they dropped out of the group.

In this year Benois met a young student at the Petersburg Academy


of Art, where he was attending an evening course (a year of drawing
classes which was the only formal art training that Benois had). This
was Lev Rosenberg, better known as a painter and revolutionary
theatrical designer under the name of his adored Epicurean grand-
father Leon Bakst. He made immediate friends with Benois and
rapidly became one of the leaders of the group. Bakst was its first
professional artist. He was, however, among its most fervent anti-
academic propagandists for he had experienced at first hand the
prevailing academic prejudice against anything which overstepped
the traditional formulae. The previous year a competition had been
announced on the subject of the 'Pieta'. Bakst, pupil of Chistyakov
and admirer of Nesterov, the religious painter of the 'Wanderers',
was full of ideas of the value of absolute realism in painting. Thinking
along these lines, he painted the Madonna as an old woman, her eyes
red with weeping over her dead Son. What was his dismay, when
called before the jury, to see his canvas crossed out by two furious
strokes of crayon! The next day he left the Academy and soon after-
wards joined the 'Pickwickians', attracted by their war on the
Academy and the 'Wanderers' alike.
The friends would meet several days a week after college at the
house of Benois or Filosofov, both homes with a sympathetic
atmosphere of cosmopolitan culture. They would read each other
lectures - interrupted by constant laughter and witticisms quite un-
quelled by Benois's frequent calls to order on his mother's bronze
bell! The lectures would be on any subject to which the member was
personally attracted at the moment. Thus Benois spoke on Diirer,
Holbein and Cranach - also on the German school which his family
so much admired: von Marees, Menzel, Feuerbach, Leibl, Klimt and
the German Impressionists Liebermann and Corinth. Benois himself
tells us that the French Impressionists were still unknown in Russia

at this date and were not directly introduced until the 'World of Art'
exhibitions in the early years of this century and in the later numbers
of their magazine. 2 Zola's book L'CEuure, published in 191 8, was,

40
TIP
l

im
ill"
>
IP 5'

22 Leon Bakst, Les Orientates, design for a backcloth (unrealized), c. 1910

according to Benois, the first source of Impressionist ideas in Russia,


where was much read. The chief sources for Russian painters on the
it

history of contemporary French and German art up till the 1920s were
Richard Muther's pioneer history of nineteenth-century painting 3
and that by Meier-Grafe, the friend of Bing and champion of the 'Art
Nouveau' movement, 4 which appeared in 1908. We find many
references to their works in Kasimir Malevich's writings. The chapter
on Russian art in Muther's history was written by Benois at the request
of the author, whom he had known in Munich on his frequent visits
in the early 1890s.
If Benois usually spoke on painting and architecture, Filosofov
would talk on Turgenev and his times, or the ideas during the reign

41
of Alexander the First. Bakst, who looked more like a clerk than an
art student, with his red hair, small close-set, blue eyes, steel-rimmed
glasses and retiring manner, would speak less than the others, but was
always ready to join in with his gay laughter and quick wit. This
modest young man had a hard life, for he was left with a dependent
mother, two sisters and a younger brother to support while still a
student. It is reported that he never became despondent, however, and
was always generous and sympathetic with the quarrelsome friends.
Although he was the least colourful personality of the group, it is
Bakst more than any of the friends who has become identified with its
creative work. In his exotic decors for Diaghilev's ballet, such as
Ills 22, 23 Sheherezade or Les Orientales and his Hellenistic L'Apres-midi d'un
Faune and Narcisse, the 'World of Art' found its fullest realization.
Towards the end of 1890 a country cousin of Filosofov's arrived in
Saint Petersburg from his native Perm and was introduced to the
'Pickwickians'. This stocky plump young man with rosy cheeks and
a large sensuous mouth was Sergei Diaghilev. The presence of this
hearty young provincial with the boisterous laugh was at first
accepted cautiously by the young aesthetes, and only as a favour to his
cousin whom they all admired very much. On his part, Diaghilev

23 Leon Bakst, L'Apres-midi d'un Faune, settings and costumes, 19 12


rather despised the friends with their dowdy clothes and intcllcctu.il
pursuits,and would only rarely turn up for their meetings, preferring
to attend Kills and grand social functions.
In [890 the May College group left school, most of them going

abroad for year, .is was the custom among such families in Russia,
.1

before entering Petersburg University. It is typical that Bcnois chose


to go to Munich rather than Paris, in order to acquaint himself with
contemporary art, and that Diaghilev and Filosofov, who did go to
Paris, should have been impressed not by the Impressionists of whose
existence they appear to have been still ignorant, but by Zuloaga,
Puvis cie Chavannes and the Scandinavian painter, Zorn.
On their return from abroad and during their university careers
the friends began more seriously to develop their ideas on art and to
define their feeling of a mission to create a new art-eonseious intelli-

gentsia 111 Russia. None of the group seems to have taken his university
career seriously Diaghilev, we are told, was far more interested in
his music- lessons with Rimsky-Korsakov and with meeting important
people, than with working for his legal degree; it is hardly surprising
that he took six years instead of the usual four to graduate!
They were at this point by the Muscovites Screw, a great
joined
friend of Bakst's from Ins student days at the Petersburg Academe,
and Korovin. This added to the professional status of the group of
dilettantes. A little later Nicholas Roerich joined them. Roerich had
also been at the May College, but was a tew years junior to the

'Pickwickians\ le was passionately interested in archaeology and


1

took part in a number of digs from the 8$os onwards, contributing 1

essays on these scientific discoveries to historical journals. In [893 he


entered the Petersburg Academy and also began training as a painter,
at which point he came in contact with the Tickw lekians'. He later

became an important contributor to the World of An magazine,


and with Bakst was among the most striking of Diaghilev's pre-war
stage designers. I lis decor tor Prime Igo\ with its evocation o\ the ///.

remote Russian mystery pagan rites and


past, infinite space, the o\'

elemental forces was both Symbolist in us associations M\d a direct


Outcome of his archaeological work; his knowledge of folk-art at this
tune derived from the museum and workshops of Abramtsevo and
those of the Princess Tcmshcva at Talashkino. (The latter was a centre
near Smolensk, founded 111 the 1 89OS, which was based very much on

4:>
Mamontov's Abramtsevo experiments in reviving the cottage
industries. Abramtsevo, many professional artists used to come
As at

and work in the wood-carving workshop, among whom were


III. 5 Vrubel, Golovin and Malyutin as well as Roerich and the Princess
Tenisheva herself. Thus a second generation of artists in Russia was
directly inspired by practical contact with Russian folk-art.)
In 1893 a French diplomat, Charles Birle, then serving in the
French consulate in Petersburg, was introduced to the 'Nevsky
Pickwickians' and soon became an intimate and valued member.
Birle remained in the group for only a year, but during that time he
revolutionized their opinions on contemporary French painting,
introducing them to the work of the Impressionists and Gauguin,
Seurat and Van Gogh. It was also he who introduced Alfred Nurok to
them. Nurok posed as a great cynic and perverted sinner. 'Huysmans,
Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mai, Verlaine's erotic poetry and the Marquis
de Sade were his favourite reading, and one of these books was always
sticking out of his pocket,' says Benois. 5 He introduced the group to
T.T.Heine, Steinlen, Fizze and Aubrey Beardsley. The latter in
particular was to have a great following in Russia, revolutionizing
book illustration and introducing the significant idea of the page as
an expressive entity.
The idea of a magazine now began to be mooted among the group's
members; Benois and Nuvel, who were intimate friends, united by
their passionate love of music, especially Tchaikovsky and eighteenth-
century music, were particularly interested in the project. It was
decided, however, that they had too little experience. The truth of the
matter was probably that no one wanted to take on the administrative
responsibility involved in producing a magazine. Benois was too
erratic and was irresponsible and physically rather
sensitive; Filosofov
frail ; Korovin were by now taken up with their own
Bakst, Serov and
affairs, and Nurok and Nuvel hated any responsibility. It soon became

apparent that Diaghilev was the obvious person to bring together


these diverse personalities in a series of creative enterprises, first the
magazine, then exhibitions, and finally the 'Russian Ballet', the most
significant expression of the 'World of Art' movement.
Diaghilev was of course much less cultured than his companions;
his one claim to authority lay in music and even that he soon gave up
as a creative activity on the plain-spoken recommendation of his

44
.

24 Nicholas Rocrich, Prince Igor, design for stage set, 1909

teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov. He was, however, 'full of health, strength


and provincial energy and freshness' in contrast to the other 'Nevsky
Pickwickians', who, although still in their twenties, lacked the will to
accomplish any active programme. In 1895 Diaghilev went abroad
again, this time on his own and began collecting paintings. He returned
to Russia with a large number of newly acquired works - and jokingly
suggested to Benois that he would make him the Director of the
S. P. Diaghilev Museum! On this visit Diaghilev found his feet and

returned to his friends as an equal. Benois continued to be his 'mentor'


in art matters, but his personality made him a natural leader whose
drive and talent for practical affairs was soon to involve his friends in
a whirl of creative activity. Having published a few articles on art

which had a successful reception, Diaghilev's public ambitions were


aroused and from this time he began to look for an opening in the
administrative art field. Two years later he organized his first exhibi-
tions 'English and German Watercolours' and 'Scandinavian Painters'
:

These were followed in 1898 by an 'Exhibition of Russian and Finnish

45
:

Painters'. They were brilliant artistic events and marked the beginning
of the 'World of Art' as an exhibiting society. Shortly afterwards the
magazine appeared.
The year 1896 had proved a year of dispersal among the group's
members. Benois, now graduated from the University and married,
left for Paris. Somov and Benois's young nephew Lanseray, who had"

recently joined the society, also went to Paris. Benois, preoccupied


by his enthusiasm for French eighteenth-century culture, remained
there for the next two years. He did not return to Russia until Diaghilev
wrote to him and insisted on his coming to help him with the magazine
which he was hoping to launch

... I am now working on a magazine in which I hope to unite

the whole of our artistic life, that is, as illustrations I shall use real
painting, the articles will be outspoken, and then in the name of
the magazine, propose to organize a series of annual exhibitions,
I

and finally, to attract to the magazine the new industrial art which
is developing in Moscow and Finland.
6

The others of the group were immensely taken by Diaghilev's project,


and there were lively discussions among them, but Benois, caught by
a mood of spiritual depression in Paris, did not respond. Diaghilev
wrote him a further letter which reveals that half-bullying half-
coaxing attitude to his artist friends which later brought together that
remarkable undertaking, the 'Ballet-Russe de Serge Diaghilev'.

In the same way that am unable to ask my parents to love me, so


I

I am unable to ask you to sympathize and help me in my enterprise -


not as a support and blessing, but directly, single-mindedly and in
a creative way. In a word I am not able to argue or ask you for
anything, andO God, there's no time, or I would come and wring
your neck. That's all, and I hope the frank and brotherly tone of my
abuse will shake you out of yourself and that you will cease to be a
foreigner and spectator and will quickly put on your dirty overalls
like the rest of us. . . .

Shortly Benois returned to Russia and began writing for the


after,

projected magazine. He wrote an article on the Impressionists and


another on Brueghel. The latter was, however, turned down by the
editors 'as not sufficiently modern'. At this time an ideological 'left'

46
and 'right' began to split the members of the group
into two camps:
those who were above all, who on principle attacked
for the 'new'
everything they considered narrow, provincial or outmoded; and the
more conservative 'right' who were scholarly and even eclectic in the
broadness of their knowledge and sympathies. The first category
included Nurok, Nuvel, Bakst and Korovin, the second Benois,
Lanseray and Merezhkovsky. Between the two came Filosofov the
'peacemaker' and Diaghilev, who intellectually always took second
place to his brilliant cousin. Serov sided sometimes with one camp
and sometimes with the other, but as both he and Korovin were only
visiting members of the group, their opinion counted for less in the
continual debates which shaped the future magazine.
Having decided more or less on the content and format of the
magazine, which was to be in every way epoch-making, the next
problem was to find a patron to finance the enterprise. Princess
Tenisheva, whose crafts centre on her estate at Talashkino has already
been mentioned, had been very friendly with Benois during the last
two years.She was therefore considered an obvious person to
approach about the ambitious project. When she learnt that Diaghilev
was to be the general editor of the magazine, however, she was
sceptical about the idea, for she, like many society personalities, knew
Diaghilev only as a frivolous and smart young man, not as a serious
student of art. It was only after the two exhibitions which Diaghilev
arranged in 1897 that the Princess decided to back the magazine.
Another patron had still to be found to share the burden of the heavy
initial cost, and Savva Mamontov was obviously the most hopeful

choice, in spite of his relatively straitened circumstances at this time.


Since his bankruptcy of 1 890 he had worked fanatically hard to restore
the fortune of his family and had been so far successful that the
Abramtsevo pottery was now on a sound commercial footing. He
was, in fact, able to share the financial launching of this new venture
so reminiscent of his earlier efforts.
The first number of the World of Art magazine appeared in October
1898. Its actual appearance was due to the personal efforts of Filosofov,
who was in charge of the technical side of production. He prepared
the illustrations which were printed on a special kind of 'verger' paper
which had never been used in Russia before. A great deal of trouble
was taken over the preparation of the blocks, which were a whole

47
year in the making in Germany. The type they eventually decided
on was an eighteenth-century face of which they had managed to find
the matrices. It was thus a pioneering enterprise in printing techniques,
as well as in art.

It was due to Filosofov that the work of Victor Vasnetsov was


also
illustrated in the first number. This choice provoked a storm of
protest among the group. Filosofov and Diaghilev regarded Vasnetsov
as 'the radiant sign of the new Russia, the idol before which one should
kneel and worship'. Benois, Nuvel and Nurok protested that this was
to confuse purely artistic standards of value, which they held to be
the essential tenet of the 'World of Art', with a cultural-historical
phenomenon. They were, however, told that they were foreigners
at heart and were ignoring the real nature of Russian art. The philo-

sophy of 'art for art's sake' was thus disputed even within its own
stronghold, However, the 'World of Art' in so far as it can be identified
with a single philosophy was inspired by the idea of an art which
existed in its own right, not subservient to a religious, political or
social propaganda motive. 'The "World of Art" is above all earthly
things, above the stars, there it reigns proud, secret and lonely as on
a snowy peak.' Thus Bakst described the emblem which he designed
for the magazine. 7 Art was seen as a form of mystical experience, a
means through which eternal beauty could be expressed and com-
municated - almost a new kind of religion.
Symbolist ideas were further and more explicitly introduced by the
writerswho shortly joined the magazine. The poets Blok, Balmont
and the religious writers Merezhkovsky and Rosanov were repre-
sented side by side with the parent French school: Baudelaire,
Verlaine and Mallarme. The music of Scriabin was also discussed in
its pages, thus making it a true 'World of Art'.

The visual section of the magazine in the early numbers included


many illustrations of the 'Art Nouveau' artists from the various
countries ofWestern Europe - Beardsley, Burne-Jones, the architec-
ture and interior designs of Mackintosh, van de Velde and Josef
Olbrich. The French school was represented by Puvis de Chavannes -
who had a great following in Russia, particularly influencing Nesterov
- Monet and Degas. But it was not until 1904, the last year of the
magazine, that the Post-Impressionist French painters were taken up.
The natural sympathies of the group were initially much more drawn

48
25 Alexander Golovin, Boris Godunov, design for a backcloth, 1907

to the Vienna Secessionist group, Bocklin and the Munich school,


and only gradually came to appreciate the current French discovery of
primitive and folk-art, which so closely paralleled the contemporary
Moscow movement begun by the Abramtsevo and Talashkino
communities. Contact between the indigenous Moscow movement
and the work of Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse began in 1904
and continued up to 1914. Its course was marked by a succession of
historic exhibitions which were the logical continuation of the
'World of Art' movement. The joining of forces of these two move-
ments provided the dynamic which impelled and directed painting in
Russia during the next decade.

49
These 'World of Art' exhibitions were the first public demonstra-
tions of the group. They were intended to be as international in scope
as the magazine, but this proved too expensive an undertaking. The

first one took place in 1898, a few months before the magazine was

launched. It was called 'An Exhibition of Russian and Finnish Painters'.


Apart from the original Russian group, the Finnish school of late
romantic painters was shown, together with work by members of
the Abramtsevo colony: Levitan, the Vasnetsov brothers, Korovin,
Serov, Nesterov, Malyutin and Vrubel - the god of the 'World of Art'.
The first official 'World of Art' show was held in the following
year, 1899. It included pottery from the Abramtsevo factory and
embroidery designs by Elena Polenova. In the section illustrating new
ideas in industrial design were examples of Tiffany and Lalique glass.
The international character of the exhibition was more pronounced
this year and included works by the French engraver Riviere whom
Benois so much admired, Puvis de Chavannes, and a few minor
works by Degas and Monet. The English school was represented by
Brangwyn and Whistler, and the German by Bocklin and one or two
other members of the Munich school.
For their third exhibition in 1900 the group elected a permanent
body of exhibiting members which included all the original Peters-
burg group, together with Korovin, Serov and Golovin, the latter a
highly successful stage designer and close collaborator of Korovin.
They worked on many productions together, with Mamontov, at
the Imperial theatres and in the early Diaghilev productions such as
///. 2% Boris Godunov.
From this time on the exhibitions ceased to be 'international' and
representative of every school - they had even shown drawings by
Repin in the first exhibitions - and acquired a more integrated and
individual stylistic character. There were two trends in this new style
which could be roughly defined as the Petersburg and the Moscow
school: the school of line and the school of colour. The artists of the
Petersburg school now included a younger generation (e.g. Bilibin
and Stelletsky), as well as Benois, Somov, Lanseray, Dobuzhinsky
and Bakst. Newcomers to the Moscow group were Igor Grabar, Pavel
Kusnetsov, Utkin, the Miliuti brothers, Sapunov, and the leaders of
the future avant-garde of the following decade, Lanonov and Goncha-
rova, who made their debut with the 'World of Art' at the 1906

50
exhibition.The Symbolist painter par excellence, Borissov-Mussatov,
was the only artist to combine the characteristics of both the Moscow
and Petersburg schools. The differences between them gradually
became more and more emphasized as the first decade of the twentieth
century came to a close.

The predominance of the English and German schools in


initial

the 'World of Art' was not superseded by the French until the early
years of this century. The last numbers of the magazine, however,
were entirely devoted to the French Post-Impressionists - Bonnard,
Vallotton and the ideas of the Nabi group; and with the final number
of 1904, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Cezanne were introduced to the
Russian public.
With this discovery of the French Post-Impressionists, the magazine
ceased. The group felt that their propaganda mission was accom-
plished. They had succeeded in restoring contact with the Western
European artistic avant-garde and made the Russian intelligentsia
aware of the national artistic heritage as a whole. With the ground
prepared for the new international culture which they had dreamed
of, they abandoned preaching for the arena of creative activity.
It is and particularly in the ballet that one must look
in the theatre
for the creative work of
the 'World of Art'. Here their ideals of an
integrated, perfected existence, a complete realization of life-made-art
was possible. In a medium where every gesture could be synchronized
with a musical pattern, where costume and decor and dancer became
integrated, they were able to create a visual whole, a complete
illusion, a world of perfect harmony.
The man responsible for introducing the 'World of Art' to the stage
was Prince Sergei Volkonsky, the newly appointed Director of the
Imperial Theatres. Volkonsky appointed Filosofov to an administra-
tive post in the Dramatic Theatre; and Diaghilev became a junior
assistant to the Director. However, although only these two young
men had official posts in the Imperial Theatre administration, the
whole group would convene to discuss what innovations could be
introduced through their friends' new position. Their first action was
to take over the official Year Book of the Theatre's productions.
Diaghilev managed with his friends to make this a brilliant, scholarly
and impressive affair which even attracted the attention of the Tsar.
Benois had meanwhile been given a commission to design the decor

51
J

26-28 Alexander Benois, Lc Pavilion d'Armide, two costume designs and stage
set, 1907

and costumes for a minor opera, production at the Hermitage Theatre


- again the whole group was called in to contribute and Somov
designed the programmes. Bakst also made his debut in the Hermitage
Theatre with a ballet called The Heart of a Marchioness in which the
great teacher Cecchetti performed. This was considered such a success
that it was transferred in 1900 to the Mariinsky Theatre.
Thus the 'World of Art' had made its bow in the theatre, if a rather
modest one, when Volkonsky was unfortunately obliged to resign his
Directorship of the Imperial Theatres, following an incident involving
a ballerina mistressof the Tsar's cousin. He was succeeded by his
Moscow assistant Telyakovsky, a weaker character than his predecessor
but whose lack of positive tastes made him an easy target for the
energetic of the 'World of Art'. But, unwittingly,
persuasion
Diaghilev had fallen out of favour with Telyakovsky and the authori-
ties and he now not only lost his job in the Imperial Theatre but was

52
dismissed in such a way was barred from any further employ-
that he
ment inthe service of the Crown. This was the reason why the 'Ballet-
Russe de Diaghilev' was brought to Europe and America, but was
never seen in Russia itself 8
Thus Telyakovsky came to rely mainly, not on Diaghilev, but on
Benois. In 1903 Benois and the composer Cherepnin approached
Telyakovsky with the idea of a ballet with a story in the style of The
young prince dreams
Tales of Hoffman, an old favourite of Benois: a
about a Gobelin tapestry, which suddenly comes to life and its figures
climb down and begin to dance with him. On waking he discovers a
shawl left by the Princess Armida on the ground. Telyakovsky was
not much taken by this unconventional idea and Le Pavilion d'Armide Ills 26-28
was not actually put into production until 1907, by which time
Telyakovsky himself invited the now established Benois to carry out
his early project. Benois called upon a promising young choreographer

53
called Michael Fokine to arrange the ballet, and they worked on it all

that summer with Cherepnm. Towards the end of that time Fokine
suggested that a very brilliant pupil of his should be introduced into
the ballet. Thiswas Nijinsky Nijmsky had created the part of Armida's
.

slave for his debut, and a pas de trois was inserted for him with Fokine
and Anna Pavlova. Such was the first and only ballet production of
the 'World of Art' to be seen in the Mariinsky Theatre. The success of
this venture inspired the idea of taking a season of Russian opera and

ballet to Paris. Having introduced Western ideas into Russia, they


were now ready to complete the exchange by introducing the new
Russian art to the West.
with the end of the magazine and the 'World of Art'
In 1903,
exhibitions, and excluded from any activity in the theatre, Diaghilev
found himself at a loss, for, unlike his friends, he felt no creative call.
What could he do to establish himself with the public, and in his own
estimation? In a typically realistic fashion he analysed his gifts and
decided that he would devote himself to furthering knowledge of
Russian art. His first undertaking was an exhibition of eighteenth-
century Russian portrait painting. This involved collecting together
altogether forgotten and despised works of art from remote country
houses all over the country. It was a gigantic task and was carried out
by Diaghilev with his peculiar pertinacity and wholeheartedness. The
result was a very brilliant occasion. The exhibition was held in the
Tauride Palace in Petersburg and opened in the presence of the Tsar
in 1905. The decor of the exhibition had been devised by Bakst and
was conceived as a garden with sculpture relieving the monotony of
the rows of canvases. It was typical of the ideals of the 'World of Art'
that even an exhibition should be presented as a dramatic unity: the
idea of thus relating the exhibits to an ensemble foreshadows the
exhibition techniques evolved by El Lissitzky in the early 1920s.
The following year (1906) Diaghilev arranged to organize a

Russian section at the Salon d'Automne


For this exhibition
in Paris.
Diaghilev used many of the paintings from the Tauride Palace
exhibition and again Bakst designed the decor in the twelve rooms
taken over by Diaghilev in the Grand Palais. It was a much bolder
enterprise, however, than that of the previous year and was designed
to introduce the whole of Russian art to the West. The exhibition
began with examples of icon painting - the least impressive works in

54
the exhibition, for few icons had been cleaned at this date. (It was not
until the exhibition of 19 13 held in Moscow to celebrate the ter-
centenary of the Romanov dynasty that Russian icon painting was
revealed in all its original purity of colour and line.) In addition,
Court portraits of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and
examples from all periods of Russian art were included - always with
the exception of the despised 'Wanderers' - ending with the youngest
Moscow artists who had only recently begun to exhibit with the

'World of Art': Pavel Kusnetsov, Mikhail Larionov and Natalia


Goncharova.
This exhibition - still the most comprehensive of its kind to have
been seen in the West - was a most ambitious undertaking on
Diaghilev's part. It was a great success, not as spectacular as the later

ballet seasons, but sufficient to encourage him in further projects in


the propagation of Russian art in the West - perforce the West, since
his activities in this direction had been so limited at home. In 1907 and
1908 Diaghilev introduced the 'five' nationalist composers in a series
of concerts in Paris and in 1908 he brought to Paris the Imperial
Theatre's production of Moussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov, with ///. 25
Shalyapin in the title role and decor and costumes designed by Benois

29 Alexander Golovin, Ruslan and Ludmilla, design for a backcloth, 1902


and Golovin. The production had an enormous success, and Diaghilev,
with Benois who was then living in Paris, and some of the other
'World of Art' friends who had accompanied the opera company, got
together to plan further projects.
The outcome of the numerous discussions which absorbed the
group during the next few months, reunited as in the early days of the
'Nevsky Pickwickians' and the later editorial meetings of the World
of Art magazine, was the first, historic and overwhelming success of
the 'Russian Ballet' which opened at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris on
Ills 26-28 19 May 1909. Le Pavilion d'Armide was chosen to head the programme,
77/. 24 together with Borodin's Prince Igor. The ballet sequence of this opera,
the famous Polovtsian Dances, seen against Roerich's superb sets, had
a delirious reception. Also included in the first season were Rimsky-
Korsakov's Pskovtianka - renamed for the Western public Ivan the
Terrible - with a popular work by the mid-nineteenth-century
77/. 29 composer Serov and the prologue from Glinka's opera Ruslan and
Ludmilla. It was, however, the ballets which were the great success of
the season. Apart from Le Pavilion d'Armide and the Polovtsian Dances,
Fokine choreographed the exquisitely romantic Les Sylphides danced
by Pavlova and Nijinsky, and Cleopatre, a musical hotchpotch with
pieces taken from seven composers, and danced by Ida Rubinstein.
This latter work was chiefly remarkable for Bakst's superb decor, an
77/. 22 exotic peacock-brilliant vision like his Orientales and Sheherezade with
which he took Paris by storm.
During the next years, up to 191 4, Diaghilev annually brought to
Paris works in which one can trace the many tempers and tongues
which went to make up the 'World of Art' the classical revival
:

favoured by Benois; Roerich and Stravinsky's evocation of remote


pagan cultures; the Hellenistic revival reflected in Bakst's designs,
77/. 23 such as U Apres-midi d'un Faune, mingled with the influence of Persian
interiors; the ornamental-decorative Impressionism of Golovin in the
tradition of Vrubel; Korovin's Impressionistic designs; and the later
designs by Lanonov and Goncharova which not only reach back in
their brilliant colour and formal motifs to the revival of folk-art by the
Abramtsevo artists, but forward to the Futurist movement in painting
of which they were the Russian pioneers.
Thus in Diaghilev's ballet one can rediscover a complete microcosm
of the artistic life in Russia during the reign of the 'World of Art'. In

56
30 Matislav Dobuzhinsky, Man in Glasses, 1905-6

the great contribution which they made to both the Russian and
Western scene, they saw their ambitions justified, and the creation of
a new international culture springing from Russia as a reality.
We have already distinguished two main directions in the 'World
of Art' that of Petersburg (line) and that of Moscow (colour). In both
:

cases their most important work was done in the theatre, and the
influence of 'theatrical' devices is paramount in the pictorial revolution
which they continued.
To take the Petersburg school first: this was headed by Benois, and
the chief innovation in pictorial composition was in finding new ways
of rendering space without relying on perspective. Many of the
devices were borrowed straight from the stage, for example, the use
of wings to create depth in planes, or the use of overhanging frontal
panels. These latter often represented leaves creating a pantheistic
atmosphere, a secret world enclosed and guarded by mother nature,
typical of Symbolist feeling. An emphasis on the 'felt' rather than

57
3i
Alexander Benois,
Versailles under Snow,
1905

of distance between the spectator and the world of the


'explicit' sense
picture was often the aim thus a heightened or drastically lowered
:

77/. 33 viewpoint was used to create a sense of immediacy and intimacy with
the pictorial scene: this was a device much used by Benois in his
III. 31 evocations of Versailles and the world of Louis XIV, or of the classical
style of Saint Petersburg of Peter, or the Rococo of Catherine the
Great. Another favourite device, derived from the Renaissance
Ills 1 6, 30 painters, was the painting of a window at the back of a scene through
which another scene was glimpsed; or the repetition of a scene, or
comment on it from another angle, achieved through reflections in a
mirror. Another characteristic transferred from the theatre to easel
77/. 32 painting was the use of silhouette, in particular the exaggerated

32
Konstantin Somov,
The Kiss,
1902
33 Valentin Scrov, Peter the First, 1907

eighteenth-century silhouette. Often these costumed figures with


their high powdered wigs would be rendered even less human and
more doll-like by masks and by depicting them in profile or with their
backs to the spectator.
In all these ways these artists tried to break down the traditional
academic methods of picture construction, but their chief stylistic
characteristic was the reduction of the human figure to an ornamental-
decorative shape which emphasized the two-dimensional quality of
the picture-surface and the eloquence of line divorced from colour
and modelling. By 'unrolling' objects in silhouette moving parallel to
the picture-surface they emphasized the quality of their paintings as
visual impressions of a moment caught in time; by the use of costume
they reduced the individual to a type, and the particular to a generalized
definition.

59
This new emphasis on the flatness of the canvas surface which the
Petersburg continued from Vrubel was likewise pursued by
artists

their Moscow Here a breakdown of the static,


friends in colour.
closed forms to open dynamic forms was brought about by the
rejection of modelling and the use of all-over even colour, as in icon
painting/) In one of Serov's archaic scenes a chariot flies briefly on
the horizon, its sketchy figures and horses on the strip of sand seem
mocked by the vast unchanging sky. A sense of immensity, of all-
pervasive atmosphere, is typical of this new mood in paintings:
characteristics which Symbolist idea that the intangible,
reflect the
the mysterious, not the defined and understood, represents the deeper
reality. A device often used by these painters is an unbroken fore-
ground leading to tiny figures half-way up the canvas and a diffused
even light which leads the eye back over the sky. This double journey
of the eye is later to be found in the work of Pavel Kusnetsov, a
direct descendant of these artists Mirage in the Steppes, for example,
:

where the flat ground stretches endlessly to the horizon and where the
heat has thrown up great shimmering white curves in the equally
"measureless blue.
The influence of the Impressionist painters on Korovin's work was
reflected not in a close attention to accurate visual representation of a
scene in terms of light and colour: the Russian artist has never been
notable for his interest in visual reality, but in his use of a continuous
all-over brushstroke rhythm merging one element with another,
weighting evenly background and object, so that the figure becomes
a patch of colour rather than an isolated arbitrarily defined element.
In a similar way Golovin developed Vrubel's experiments in his
decorative 'carpet-like' weaving of motifs, which reduce the whole
to a vibrating unity of colour rhythms. Golovin's work, like that of
Korovin, with whom he constantly co-operated, is essentially of the
theatre. It created an atmosphere into which the spectator is in-
evitably drawn. Such examples of Golovm's and Korovin's work as
///. 25 the decor for Diaghilev's Paris production of Boris Godunov and the
III. 2g 1902 production ofRuslan and Ludmilla at the Mariinsky Theatre were
pioneers in their achievement of a visual unity, and continued directly
the early productions of Mamontov's 'Private Opera' company.
The only painter to unite the costume-painting of the Petersburg
artists with their inspiration derived from the eighteenth century,

60
and the Moscow artists with their colour experiments, was Victor
Borissov-Mussatov (i 870-1905). After Vrubel, Borissov-Mussatov
was the most significant and influential painter in Russia at this time.
Borissov-Mussatov was a native o^ the eastern Volga city o{
Saratov, which was the chief provincial art centre in Russia at this time
up to the 1920s. (In 1924 the large exhibition of German Expressionist
painting which was sent to Russia visited Moscow, Leningrad and
Saratov.) The Radishchcv Museum in Saratov boasted an unusually
enlightened collection for the time, with a particularly fine collection
of Montecelli's work. At a very early age Mussatov began attending
drawing classes at the Radishchev Museum. Showing promise, he
then left his native town to enrol in the Moscow College of Painting,
Sculpture and Architecture. In 1891 he transferred to the Petersburg
Academy and was among the last of those taught by Chistyakov.
Still unsatisfied, he returned after a year to Moscow and began work-

ing in earnest. His early work is academic, his line hard and his colour
cold, but while still in Moscow the future Symbolist dreamer begins
to show through this student discipline. In 1895 he left for Paris and
during the next four years worked in Gustave Moreau's studio,
famous for its brief housing of the future Fauve painters. Mussatov
made no contact, however, with them. He was first struck, like
Diaghilev the year before, by Bastien-Lepage. This early interest was
soon succeeded by Puvis de Chavannes, alike the model of the Nabi
group and the 'World of Art' painters. The similarity in interest and
purpose of these two groups I have already pointed out, but it is one
which would make an interesting detailed comparison, particularly
in the idea of painting as part of a total environment.
It was under the influence of Puvis de Chavannes that Mussatov

began working in an historical style. His fascination with the past, in


the style of the 1830s, remained a constant characteristic in his mature
work. It is not, one feels, a particular moment in history which he
desired to evoke - unlike Benois and Somov, the Petersburg
eighteenth-century devoues - but simply the past, the moment
irretrievably gone for which he for ever seems to grieve.
Mussatov's use of historical costume also differs profoundly from
that of Somov or Benois. It is not a conscious stylization in order to
reduce the figures to a silhouette, a marionette, but a means of
rendering the human figure more remote and mysterious.

61
34 Victor Borissov-Mussatov, Autumn Evening, study for a tresco, 1903

In 1895, after the death of Gustave Moreau, Mussatov went back


to Russia. He returned to his native Saratov, and there began to
work in surroundings which leant themselves to the melancholy
dreaming which remained his constant mood until his premature
death in 1905. A local landowner provided Mussatov with the ideal
situation for working an abandoned park with a derelict house built
:

in the classical style - just such a house and pavilion as the English
Ills 34, 35, artist Conder loved to paint. With its white colonnades and rounded

37 domes it appears in almost every work by Mussatov of this time.


Vague crinolined figures gaze at their reflections in the lake, mysterious,
III. 36 lonely and silent. A typical example is The Reservoir of 1902; the

melancholy bending figure is withdrawn into an enclosed, death-


close world wrapped round by shadows and the immaterial rhythms
of water. The soft blues and grey-greens which Mussatov always
used are the Symbolist colours par excellence - Maeterlinck's Bluebird,
Oscar Wilde's green carnation and later Kandinsky and Yavlensky's
'Blue Rider' all make use of the association of such colour-tones.
There was also the 'Blue Rose', a group of Moscow artists who were
directly inspired by Mussatov and who succeeded the 'World of Art'
as the new movement in Russian painting after 1905, the second

generation of Symbolist painters.

62
3f

35 Victor Borissov-Mussatov, Sleep of the gods, study for a fresco, 1903

36 Victor Borissov-Mussatov, The Reservoir, 1902


37 Victor Borissov-Mussatov, Sunset reflection, 1904

64
CHAPTER TH REE

1905-10

The atmosphere of political turmoil which surrounded the abortive


Revolution of 1905 was accompanied by a renewed vitality in all the
arts. Just as the rapid expansion of industrialization, made possible

by large foreign investments, brought Russia into the economy of


Western Europe, so for these five years, from 1905 until 1910, move-
ments in Russian art were intimately bound up with developments
in other European centres. It was during this time that Russia became
a meeting-place for the progressive ideas from Munich, Vienna and
Paris, and springing from this cosmopolitan basis a style began to
develop which in the following decade led to the creation of an
independent Russian school of art.
This period of free exchange with Western art centres and general
renaissance of culture in Russia can be directly attributed to the activities
of the 'World of Art' members. In tracing their movements, therefore,
one can rediscover the pattern of events.
When the World of Art came to an end as a magazine its literary
contributors went on to found their own publications. In 1904 The
Scales appeared. This was followed two years later by The New Way. 2
1

In these magazines one of the most important innovations of the


'World of Art' was maintained: the conception of art as a unity, of a
basic inter-relationship and common source of all inspiration regard-
less of the medium of expression. This spiritual affinity between the

members of the 'World of Art' and the Symbolist school was later
realized in a physical inter-development of literature and painting
which is one of the most outstanding characteristics of the Cubo-
Futurist and subsequent schools of abstract painting which developed
in Russia during the years 19 10-21. Thus these Symbolist magazines
not only included the work of Briussov, Balmont and Blok and the
French writers from whom they sought their inspiration, but also
devoted space to developments in painting, music and architecture.
The pioneer work in Russian art history begun by the 'World of
Art' was continued in a number of magazines established during this

65
period. The moving figure in this activity was Benois. Already in
1903 he had founded The Artistic Treasury of Russia, 3 in 1907 this
was followed by The Old Years, 4 and in 1909 Apollon made its
appearance. 5 These magazines mark the first attempt to create a
systematic research into the history of art, and in particular of Russian
art.Here we find the first attempts to relate Russian movements in
art to theirEuropean counterparts. The history of Byzantine traditions
in Russia is likewise traced, and the sources of Russian folk-art. The
great private collections were given their first publicity in these
publications, including those of the early patrons of icon painting,
the recent collectors among Moscow merchants of later Europeanized
court art, and the even more recent collectors of Oriental and modern
European art.
The magazine Apollon is particularly valuable to an historian of
modern art in Russia, for it contains detailed reviews of exhibitions
during the period in which was published - the vital years of 1909
it

up Revolution of 191 7. These reviews are often the only reliable


to the
source of documentation for these historic exhibitions.
Apollon did not, however, continue the tradition of the 'World of
Art' as a champion of the avant-garde. Its reviews of the little
exhibitions which became typical of the scene during these next
years are scholarly and accurate in their information, but often
pedantic in their approach. Consolidation rather than creation was its
contribution.
was the 'Golden Fleece' 6 which continued the tradition of the
It

'World of Art' most completely. This not only championed the


avant-garde in its magazine, but was also an active organization in
sponsoring exhibitions. During its short life, 1906 to 1909, the 'Golden
Fleece' was of fundamental importance and its formation, develop-
ment and significance will be enlarged upon shortly.
Nuvel and Nurok, the musical members of the 'World of Art',
founded a society called 'Evenings of Contemporary Music' in Saint
Petersburg, in 1902. The purpose of the evenings was to bring to-
gether the musical avant-garde, and the concerts given on these
occasions often comprised first performances in Russia of works by
foreign or native composers. Those favoured by the society included
Mahler, Reger and Richard Strauss, Debussy, Ravel, Cesar Franck
and Faure, and among the Russians, Scriabin, Rimsky-Korsakov,

66
Rachmaninov and Mcdtncr. The seventeen-year-old Prokofiev gave
his firstpublic concert at one of these evenings; and it was here too
that Rimsky-Korsakov's young pupil Igor Stravinsky gave the first
performance of an original work entitled Fireworks. It happened
that Sergei Diaghilev was in the audience on this evening in 1909, and
having heard and become enthusiastic over this unknown young
composer's piece, in his inimitable fashion, Diaghilev demanded that
he should take over the work of writing a score for his projected
ballet Firebird. (He had already commissioned Liadov to do this work,
but since that composer had so far produced nothing, Diaghilev
decided to hand over the commission to Stravinsky.) Thus began a
most happy and historic co-operative enterprise, in which Stravinsky
wrote the music for ten of Diaghilev's ballets, and through this activity
was introduced to the West, where he eventually settled.
Another direct outcome of the 'World of Art' movement, and
one of no small consequence to the development of painting in Russia
during the next fifteen years, was the creation of a picture-buying
public among the middle classes. 'Culture' and collecting paintings
became an essential adjunct of the respectable wealthy citizen. The
subjects of these collections varied, and again reflect the influence of
the 'World of Art' in forming the taste of the following generation.
Thus Russian portrait painting of the eighteenth and early nineteenth
century became fashionable after the Diaghilev exhibition of 1905
which brought this long forgotten school back to the notice and
favour of the Russian public. The new collecting urge had an even
more important effect, since it was the means through which examples
of French Post-Impressionist paintings were brought into Russia,
where they exercised a powerful influence on the younger painters.
Most illustrious among such collections were those of Sergei Shchukin
and Ivan Morosov, both of Moscow.
Sergei Shchukin was a small man whose half-Mongol features,
with flashing black eyes under bristling eyebrows, have been so
dramatically recorded for us by Henri Matisse. His collection was
phenomenally rich in works by Matisse and Picasso.
He had four brothers, all of whom were collectors, but only Sergei
was interested in contemporary art. As we saw in Chapter I, he first
came across the work of the French Impressionists when his friend and
fellow-collector Botkm, who was then resident in Paris, introduced

67
him to the gallery of Durand-Ruel and called his attention to a
work of Claude Monet of whom he was - and in Russia a
a great
pioneer - admirer. Shchukin immediately bought a Monet, Argenteuil
Lilac.This event took place in 1897 and marks the beginning of
Shchukin's extraordinary collection. By the outbreak of the First
World War in 1 9 1 4 it numbered 221 works of the French Impressionist

and Post-Impressionist schools, over fifty of them by Matisse and


Picasso, including many vital Fauve and post-Fauve works by Matisse
and examples of Picasso's latest period of analytical Cubism. 7 Not
only was the work of Picasso and Matisse revealed to the Russian
public in this way, but likewise the Batignolles school of the 1870s -
Manet, Fantin-Latour, Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, Degas and Monet -
were all introduced to Russia by Shchukin. It was probably not until
1904 that he acquired his first Cezanne (although the still-life Flowers
in a Vase may have been acquired by him directly after its sale by its

previous owner, Victor Choquet, which took place in 1899). From


1904 onwards, Shchukin concentrated his attention on the Post-
Impressionist school whose work he saw at the Salons des Independants
and Salons d'Automne to which he was a regular visitor. First-class
examples of the work of Van Gogh, Gauguin, the Nabi school, the
Douanier Rousseau and Derain, rapidly appeared on the walls of his
large Moscow house which was now open to the public on Saturday
afternoons. The sudden impact of these pictures on the young painters
of Moscow can easily be imagined. But scarcely had they learned to
absorb these than the first works by Matisse and Picasso began to
appear on Shchukin's walls. Shchukin first met Matisse in about 1906,
although he had probably acquired a couple of his works two years
previously. 8 During 1906 and 1907 Shchukin bought four early
Fauve works, but in 1908 he became Matisse's most important patron
when he acquired the crucial Game of Bowls and the enormous
Harmony in Blue (which became Harmony in Red to match Shchukin's
dining-room in which it was to hang). The following year he bought
among other works Nymph and Satyr and commissioned the huge
Music and Dance, which Matisse himself travelled to Moscow in the
winter of 191 1 to install in situ. On this visit Matisse is said to have
been very impressed by the artistic activity of the town and to have
spent much time studying Russian icon painting and folk-art. 'It was
looking at the icons in Moscow that I first understood Byzantine

68
;

painting.' 9The Moscow painters in their turn were impressed by no


one so much as Matisse. Even Cezanne, Gauguin and Picasso, whose

influences were immense on the contemporary Moscow avant-garde,


could not touch the enthusiasm provoked by Matisse whose ideas
came so near to their own and in the
in their reduction to essentials
decorative flat style of painting. Aof the esteem in which
reflection
Matisse's work was held at this time is the special number of the
Moscow magazine Golden Fleece devoted to the work of Matisse. 10
It included an essay by Henri Mercereau, permanent Paris corre-

spondent of the Golden Fleece, on Matisse's position in the French


movement, and a translation of Matisse's Notes d'un peintre. Alfred
Barr describes this profusely illustrated number of the Golden Fleece
as the most complete single publication on Matisse in any language

up till 1920. 11
It was Matisse who introduced Shchukin to Picasso. Between this

first meeting in 1908 and 19 14 Shchukin bought over fifty paintings

by Picasso and he and Matisse were given individual rooms in the


Moscow house. Matisse himself arranged his room on his visit in 191 1
Picasso's room contained examples of African sculpture from the
Congo and Madagascar to go with the Cubist works of which Shchukin
had a number of extremely radical examples, both of the early period
of 1908-9 and of the almost abstract, such as Musical Instruments of 77/. 121
191 2-1 3. The latter is one of the few works executed on an oval-
shaped canvas; it served Malevich as a direct model for his Cubist
works of 191 3, which were executed just before his first Suprematist Ills 1 17-iQ
abstract paintings.
The Morosovs, unlike the Shchukins, were traditional collectors.
Perhaps for this reason Ivan Morosov's taste was more conservative,
less and personal than that of Shchukin, who always chose his
sure
own paintings regardless of advice. Morosov on the contrary needed
encouragement. When he was first taken to Matisse's studio by
Shchukin in 1908 he was uncertain about the more recent works,
unlike his bold compatriot who seemed to delight in outraging the
Moscow bourgeoisie. At first, therefore, Morosov bought only early
works by Matisse; however, in a few years' time he was so far con-
vinced by the talent of this painter that he even outdid Shchukin in
the number, though not the quality, of his acquisitions. Morosov
fought shy of Picasso. In fact, in his whole collection of 135 paintings,

69
there was only one Picasso. Predominant in his collection were
Cezanne, Monet, Gauguin and Renoir. He also bought many works
by the Nabi school and commissioned Maurice Denis, Bonnard and
Vuillard to execute large-scale panels for his house. 12 Denis had a
great following in Russia, which he visited several times during this
work more than that of any other French painter was
period, for his
sympathetic to the Petersburg Symbolist school of literature among
whom he found ardent supporters; work and articles by him were
frequently reproduced in their magazines.
Thus through the collections of Morosov and Shchukin, the Rus-
sian artists were given as it were a concentrated course in the

revolutionary French painting of the last forty years, and the most
advanced ideas and movements of the last ten years were even more
familiar in Moscow than in Paris itself where the public did not have
the advantage of a selection made for them by the masterly eye of
such men.
It is hardly surprising that such stimulus should have precipitated
a revolution. Already by 1905 the successful establishment of the
'World of Art' movement and its original propagandists was provok-
ing a restlessness and feeling of reaction among the younger painters,
particularly those in Moscow, to whom the stylization of the domi-
nant graphic style of the 'World of Art' was basically alien. They
protested against the erudition which the 'World of Art' painters
continued to emphasize, even though the battle against the 'Wanderers'
which had provoked this drive for a high standard in the artist had
long been won. Now that the need for a basic cultural education for
themselves and the public was no longer urgent, the younger genera-
tion felt that the 'World of Art' members were pursuing knowledge
for its own sake and had become lost among problems so obscure as
to be irrelevant to all but the most highly cultured. In the first number
of the Golden Fleece the voice of the new generation made its protest:

In order to understand even a little the work of Somov, Dobu-


zhinsky, Bakst, Benois and Lanseray one must be familiar not only t

with the of the eighteenth century but also with that of the early
art
nineteenth century; one must have studied Gainsborough and
Beardsley, Levitsky [the Russian eighteenth-century portrait
painter, 1 73 5-1 822] and Briullov [Russian painter of classical school,

70
*799- 1 $S 2 ]i Velasquez and Manet, and the German woodcuts of
the sixteenth century. But can one create an art capable of
. . .

general communication from such a sauce of history? 13

This revolt against the 'World of Art' was paradoxically enough


revealed at its own exhibition of 1906. It brought together a large

number of works, by artists who now had little in common: the


original 'old guard' second generation of Petersburg artists such
; a

as Bilibin and Stelletsky; and a number of young, chiefly Muscovite,

painters whom Diaghilev had invited to contribute to both this


exhibition and the one of the same year which he was organizing in
Paris.
The works of the 'old guard' were chiefly designs for recent
theatrical productions. Benois, recently returned from a three-years'

stay in France, contributed a series of Walks of Louis


the park XIV in
of Versailles;Roerich a series of archaic mountain-scapes. Korovin,
likewise recently returned from France, had now succumbed to
imitation of Pissarro and Monet and exhibited classic Impressionist
showed a few of his brilliant portraits of
scenes of Paris streets. Serov
prominent personalities such as that of the actress Ermolova. Vrubel III. 16
was represented by some of his recent works done in the mental
asylum not far from Moscow, where he was living at this time;
among these was the portrait of his friend, the Symbolist poet ///. 17
Briussov.
The most exciting section of the exhibition, however, was that
devoted posthumously to the work of Borissov-Mussatov, who was
almost entirely unknown outside a small circle of artists during his
lifetime. Diaghilev was a great admirer of this painter and considered
him to be grossly underestimated. In the following year (1907) he
organized a large retrospective exhibition of his work in Moscow.
The section devoted to his works in this 'World of Art' exhibition of
1906 was the first attempt to assess his contribution to art as a whole.
In bringing it together Diaghilev undoubtedly played a part in the
formation of the 'Blue Rose' group, a second generation of Symbolist
who acknowledged this painter as their inspiration.
artists,

The who later formed this group contributed notably to the


artists

exhibition, 'bringing to it new colours, new tones and new life'. 14


For the most part they were students of the Moscow College under

71
Serov and Korovin. The most prominent among them were Pavel
Kusnetsov, Georgy Yakulov, an Armenian and future Constructivist
designer in the theatre, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, the
Greek Miliuti brothers Nikolai and Vassily, and the Armenian
Martiros Saryan.
The 'Blue Rose' group came together as a distinct entity after the
'Union of Russian Artists' exhibitionof December 1906. This was a
Moscow exhibiting society which had been formed in 1903 and
which came in some measure to replace the 'World of Art'. It did not
identify itself with any particular philosophy or style, but was simply
an organization which arranged annual exhibitions to which anyone
could contribute. Many of the Petersburg 'World of Art' members
did so, and these exhibitions became the obvious centre for the mem-
bers of the Moscow College to show their work. These annual shows
were, however, usually lacking in excitement, since they included
artists of every school. But for the young student and emerging

painters they were often a first public appearance.


In the exhibition of December 1906 the pictures exhibited by the
group were in many cases the same as had already been seen in earlier
'World of Art' exhibitions, but against the confused background of
this Moscow exhibition the work of these young painters stood out
in vivid contrast.

38
Pavel Kusnetsov,
Holiday
c. 1906
.

M'lJEfk
.

i^&* MK

* '\A *

- *tkJI

tit .J*!;

* IP
39 Nikolai Sapunov, Mascarade, c. 1906

40 Nikolai Sapunov, three costume designs for Meyerhold's production of


Colombine's Best Man, 1910. Colombine's Best Man. The Dance Director. A Guest
Vg

wf\m
*
1

*!

,X^ i

^
i J
; '^' ^" 1 V ?'
'*fii
/V
k
41 Pavel Kusnetsov, Birthfusion with the mystical force in the atmosphere. The
rousing oj the devil, c. 1906

The influence on them of Vrubel and Borissov-Mussatov was easy


to see. On the one hand, one can discern a use of the imaginative
imagery of Vrubel and on the
his decorative pictorial construction;
other, the soft blue colour range and flowing line of Borissov-
Mussatov. It was from this point of departure that the 'Blue Rose'
group, by boldly simplifying their forms and using increasingly pure,
warm colour tones, began to defy the exhausted delicacy and sophisti-
cation of the 'World of Art'. Their aims, in the words of their spokes-
man, Nikolai Miliuti, were 'to bring clarity into the chaotic state of
affairs ... to create a centre into which all that is live would flow . . .

to create a more prudent and conscious group'. 15


In the following March (1907) the 'Blue Rose' held their own
exhibition in Kusnetsov's house in Moscow. Fifteen painters and one

74
sculptor, Matvccv, took part. Reviewing the exhibition, Sergei
Makovsky, the Symbolist poet and future editor of Apollon, wrote:
'They arc in love with the music of colour and line heralds of the
. . .

new primitivism to which our modern painting has come.' 16


Pavel Kusnetsov was in every way typical of the 'Blue Rose' group.
He had been a pupil of Borissov-Mussatov, their acknowledged
inspiration, during the years 1895-6 after the painter's return from
Paris. He too was a native of Saratov. Again perhaps the first-class
Radishchev Museum, and the emphasis laid by Kusnetsov's Italian
teacher Baracci in the local art school on the principal of plein air,
played their part in encouraging the pantheistic approach character-
istic of the 'Blue Rose'. The influence of the landscape painters

Polenov and Levitan as well as that of the French Barbizon school is


noticeable in the early work of Kusnetsov. He entered the Moscow
College in 1897, where he worked under Levitan and his colleague,
Professor Serov. Serov did not have much influence on the nineteen-
year-old Kusnetsov, who had already found colour to be his chief
interest. It was, however, due to Serov, who thought highly of
his precocious young pupil, that Diaghilev invited Kusnetsov to

42 Pavel Kusnetsov, Grape Harvest, c. 1907

k M0" JL*V rtSP^ UN&G T^?fiH

1 Jl

1
w
contribute works to the 'World of Art' exhibition of 1906 which has
already been described, and which introduced his work to an
immediately appreciative audience for the first time.
In contrast to Mussatov, Kusnetsov and the other 'Blue Rose'
artists were not haunted by a sense of doom, by pessimism, by a

sense of the world being an alien environment. Death, decay and


illness had been the favourite themes of the early Symbolist move-

ment, but the 'Blue Rose', which represents the second generation,
painted subjects essentially connected with life. Maternal Love,
III. 41 Morning, Birth are typical titles of Kusnetsov's works, in which the
figures are emerging as if still drowsy from a deep sleep. Stillness
surrounds them, not the stillness of Mussatov's near-death, but rather
a silence of awe before the mystery of life. As with Mussatov, there
is a pantheistic sense of unity with the elements, but this time it is a

joyful vision of man as an intimate part of the pattern of nature, not


as a creature engulfed by a force stronger than himself. A con-

temporary critic writes of his works as 'alluring visions which lead


us into a world of airy forms and misty outline visions in tones of
. . .

pale blue, matt peaceful tones, of trembling other-worldly silhouettes,


transparent stems of mystical flowers bathed in the early light of day.
On everything there lies the breath of things untold, of things to be
grasped by dim premonition.' 17
Kusnetsov's works are all, from nature, despite their
in fact, painted
fantasy. This was a rejection of the'World of Art's' theatrical
approach. Yet Kusnetsov still employed many of the devices of the
'World of Art' painters. Atmosphere is the prevailing element in his
work; geometric perspective and individual characterization of
forms in volume are entirely absent. The picture plane is flat and the
figures brought up hard against the surface. The use of repetition is
a prominent feature. Kusnetsov shared with Borissov-Mussatov a
strong lyrical feeling, a sense of poetry and his blue-grey range of
colours. His strong curved stroke is combined with a softness which he
likewise derived from Mussatov. This flat and decorative manner of
painting was to become more extreme, both in Kusnetsov's own
work and in Russian painting generally.
A noticeable feature of the exhibition of 1907 was the fact that
many of the works were not framed pictures but panels. This was in
accord with the feeling - common to the Nabi and Austrian and

76
43 Pavel Kusnetsov, The Blue Fountain, 1905

German 'Art Nouveau' painters - that easel painting was no longer


relevant to modern life. Art was now to be an integral part of society.
They wished to reject the Renaissance idea of a painting as something
which mirrored an ideal world different from everyday reality.
Among the most outstanding works at the exhibition was Nikolai ///.
44
Miliuti's Angel of Sorrow - a patchwork of streaming downward-

77
44 Nikolai Miliuti, Angel of Sorrow, c. 1905

running brushstrokes of brilliant pinks, mauves and turquoise. In the


intensity of itsrhythm and its embroidered surface it recalls Vrubel, its
vision of a lost soul in the tortured face which stares from the gaudy
pattern so vividly recalling later 'Demon' works by Vrubel. Water in
every form is a constant element in thework of these 'Blue Rose'
artists,and this again recalls Borissov-Mussatov. With these younger
painters, however, the water is seldom a still lake or pond, and there
is often the hint of a hidden source of light about to break through

and flood the scene. Thus in Sudeikin's Venice, floating figures glide
along the water's surface, their faces drugged and withdrawn, but
behind them rises a splendid sight of great trees through which light
is gently breaking, hinting, like the windows of a Gothic cathedral,

at infinite light and space beyond. Utkin also allows the rhythms of
water to penetrate his work. Mirage depicts a strange vision of figures
standing at the water's edge, or more accurately, blown up by waves,
whose substance they seem to share. Behind these willowy, swaying
figures rears a monstrous curling wave, a pumpkin cloud of water

78
45 Martiros Saryan, Man with Gazelles, c. 1905

46 Martiros Saryan, Deserted Village, 1907


by brilliant light as if touched by an unseen hand. Another painting
lit

by the same artist entitled Triumph in the Heavens takes us to the brink
of the world; we gaze through a veil of fine, hailing lines at an infinity
of blue. Beyond and around this material fragment, nothingness, one
feels, is waiting.
Beside these frail visions of immateriality in a 'measure lost to man',
III. 211 which recalls the Suprematist White on White series of paintings by
Malevich, the work of the Armenian Saryan is gratefully solid. His
use of paint is sensuous, and his colour bold. But here also there is
///. 43 mystery. Man with Gazelles shows a white figure with a shock of
black hair, leading his flock of gazelles swiftly out into a blank-faced,
white-walled desert city. There is no sky: the squat buildings hug
the spaceless, timeless scene. The Symbolist in Saryan is alsoshown in
his love of water scenes, as for example Fairy Lake. Here two naked
girlsdance to their long white water-shadows in a cloudy lake
enclosed in an ornamental garden, whose sense of seclusion and
protection reminds one of a Persian miniature. In common with the
other members of the 'Blue Rose', Saryan's figures are still hardly
defined forms, rather patches or streaks of bright colour, barely
materialized. It is a de-materialized, primeval, half-born world into

which these artists were plunged and from which they shortly
emerged into one of bold forms and brilliant colour, brimming with
life and movement.

Nikolai Miliuti's brother Vassily was another painter who con-


///. 47 tinued the tradition of Vrubel. In a work such as Legend, with its
mosaic patterning, the relation of the formal composition to Vrubel's
work is strikingly noticeable, and also the use of a similar imagery.
The Golden Fleece magazine was the organ of the 'Blue Rose'. One
of their number was the wealthy Moscow merchant Nikolai
Ryabushinsky, and he edited and financed the magazine, which had
been founded the previous year in 1906. In its editorial it declared:
'We intend to propagate Russian art beyond the country of its birth,
to represent it in Europe in a whole and integrated fashion in the
very process of its development.' 18 The magazine was printed at its
outset in both Russian and French, and the titles and authors of works
which were reproduced were scrupulously - if occasionally somewhat
whimsically - transcribed into Roman or, as occasion demanded,
Cyrillic characters.

80
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47 Vassily Miliuti, Legend, 1905

8l
The 'Golden The first
Fleece' organized three historic exhibitions.
was held in 1908 in Moscow, and included works of both French and
Russian painters. The French paintings were probably selected by
Henri Mercereau and Ryabushinsky, who frequently visited Paris
and would certainly have seen the Salons of the last few years at which
many of the paintings sent to Moscow had been exhibited. In par-
ticular many of the first Fauve works which had created such a furore
at the Salon d'Automne of 1905 reappeared at this first 'Golden Fleece'

exhibition. 'It presented the most discriminating general exhibition


of French Post-Impressionist painting held anywhere - including
France - up to that time and with the exception of the London
Grafton Gallery Show of 1912, up through World War I.' 19 The
aim of the organizers was later stated in the Golden Fleece:

In inviting French artists to take part in exhibitions, the group of


'The Golden Fleece' was pursuing two aims: on the one side, by
juxtaposing Russian and Western experiments, to show more
clearly the peculiarities in the development of young Russian
painting and its new problems; on the other side, to emphasize
the characteristics which are common to both Russian and Western
painting, for in spite of the different national psychology (the
French are the more sensual, the Russians the more spiritual) the
new experiments of young painters have a certain common
psychological foundation. Here it is a question of getting over
aestheticism and historicism, there it is a reaction to the neo-
academic art which gave birth to Impressionism. 20

It was a very large exhibition, numbering 282 paintings and three


pieces of sculpture. Of the sculpture, Maillol sent two works and
Rodin his Femme couch.ee. The paintings included works by almost all
the other members of the Nabi group Bonnard, Vuillard, Serusier,
:

Vallotton and Maurice Denis - now a permanent correspondent of


the Golden Fleece. The Fauve group was well represented and headed
by Matisse. He showed four works, from his Invalid of 190 1 to his
Neo-Impressionist Terrace of Saint Tropez of 1904 and Harbour at
Collioure of 1905, which was among his first Fauve works and the
basis for his famous Joy of Life of the following year. Derain sent four
of his brilliantly coloured views of London, Marquet two scenes of
the Seine entitled Quai du Louvre. Another Fauve who had a great

82
success in Moscow from this exhibition was Van Dongen whose
riotous colour fired the imagination of the Moscow painters.
The older school of Impressionists, likewise seen for the first time
at this was represented by works by Pissarro and Sisley;
exhibition,
there were a few drawings by Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, whose
influence was soon to be reflected in the work of Goncharova and
Petrov-Vodkin. Early works by Braque and Le Fauconnier were also
seen, and finally the three great Post-Impressionists, Cezanne, Van
Gogh and Gauguin - although in number, and in the importance of
the works exhibited, only Van Gogh equalled the Nabi group
favourites. Van Gogh's five works included Berceuse, Sun in the Trees
and Night Cafe, which was bought by Morosov at the exhibition. It is
interesting to note that neither Morosov nor Shchukin would agree
to lend any of the works from their* collections to these 'Golden Fleece'
exhibitions. When approached, according to Larionov who was one
of the organizers, Shchukin replied that he and Morosov were about
to organize their own exhibition and therefore could not be expected
to lend anything. Such an exhibition, however, never took place.
Ryabushinsky lent several of his fine collection of Rouaults, but of
course he organized and financed the exhibitions himself. David
Burliuk in his reminiscences 21 describes the setting as one of extreme
luxury, with silk hangings as a background to the paintings and
champagne to celebrate the occasion. It is described with some
bitterness, for Burliuk was not included among the painters chosen to
represent the analogous Russian up-and-coming movements, despite
the fact that Larionov and Goncharova, who had taken part in the
provincial 'Wreath' exhibitions organized by the Burliuks in 1907,
were prominent among those who were represented.
The Russian section of this first 'Golden Fleece' exhibition was hung
separately from the French and contained works by some of the
'Blue Rose' group - Kusnetsov, Utkin and Saryan - Ryabushinsky
himself contributing a modest two paintings only - but the painter
who dominated these rooms was Mikhail Larionov. He sent twenty
works of a quasi-Impressionist style, including Spring Landscape, from
the series The Garden, which reflected the influence of Vuillard and
Bonnard. Goncharova also contributed to the exhibition although
on a smaller scale, sending seven works in all, including Bouquet of
Autumn Leaves, 1902-3. Kusnetsov and Saryan's work had become

83
48 Martiros Saryan,
Self-portrait, 1907

more bold in colour and outline, more markedly primitive in form,


since the year before. In Kusnetsov's Vision of a Mother in Labour, the
monumental pregnant woman stands centrally against a rainbowed
vision of the unborn child; the square-jawed head and the squat
figure of the woman are defined by thick, sweeping lines. In other
///. 38 works such as Holiday one can discern this new primitivism even more
clearly in the simplified delineation of features and grimace of their
attitudes which is derived more from Russian peasant art, particularly
peasant woodcuts, than from the French school of Gauguin. Kusnetsov
was, however, well aware of this school and was interested in the work
of Gauguin in particular, but he preferred to go directly to the East,
to Persian and Kirghiz Mongol painting, which fascinated him at this
time and during the next ten years played a great part in the develop-
ment of his later style. Kusnetsov, in common with a number of
Russians at this time, exhibited regularly at the Paris Salons and
himself often went to Paris. Larionov and Goncharova had also gone
in 1906 with the exhibition of Russian art organized by Diaghilev.
There was, in fact, a great deal of coming and going between the two
cities at this time when Moscow was very much in Europe and bound

up with its life, and its progressive painters were almost all 'School of
Paris'.

84
:

However, the primitive character of Saryan's works such as The


Poet shown at this exhibition is again more indebted to Eastern HI- 49
traditions than to the new French School. But his brilliant colour and
strong patterning are akin to the Fauves in their fearlessness and
freedom; like theirs, his colour is full and unmixed, and he uses a
strong outlining to depict his figures. There has been a great change
since his work of the previous year, surely due in part to the new
Matisses he would have seen at Shchukin's house, although, true to
his Armenian blood, he interpreted them in an Oriental fashion.
In the work of V. Miliuti a change has likewise occurred, and in
The Shepherdess and The Secret Garden his curling twisted line pursues
a pulsing organicrhythm in a freer form.
In the following numbers of the Golden Fleece magazine much space
was devoted to discussion of this exhibition. The French school was
given an entire issue to itself, 22 in which many works from the
exhibition were reproduced; Cezanne's Portrait of the Artist's Wife and
Still-Life were in full-page colour. The text included excerpts from
Van Gogh's letters and articles such as 'Trends in new French painting
Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin' by the Symbolist poet Maximilian

49 Martiros Saryan, The Poet, c. 1906


1

50 Mikhail Larionov, Two women bathing in a river, c. 1903

Voloshin, and 'Impressionism and New Movements' by another


Russian art critic G.Tasteven.
The following number 23 with the Russian contribution. This
dealt
is a particularly useful for many of the works which were
document,
exhibited in the Russian section are reproduced. Many Kusnetsov,
Saryan and early Larionov and Goncharova works were lost in 191
when Ryabushinsky's entire collection was destroyed in a fire, so that
they would be otherwise unknown. Among them were also fine early
Rouaults of whom Ryabushinsky was an early and ardent admirer.
Few Russian works of this period have ever reached the West,
although some were seen at Diaghilev's exhibition of 1906, at the
Vienna Secession exhibition and at the Paris Salons up to the First
World War. Paintings by any of this 'Blue Rose' group, or examples

86

52 Mikhail Larionov, A corner of the Garden, c. 1905


51 Mikhail Lanonov, Rain, 1904-5
of any of the pre-1914 Moscow painting movements, are objects of
extreme rarity in Western museums and private collections. Even in
Russia itself there are fewon exhibition. Thus this period in Russian
painting has become obscure and our knowledge of it is, alas, all too
third-hand and derived from reproduction. For such painting to be
known only in reproduction - and often of mediocre quality by
modern standards - is additionally prejudicial, for it is primarily for
its colour that it is exciting. The peculiarly soft and exquisite blue-
greys of the work of Borissov-Mussatov and Kusnetsov, the brilliant
dappled pinks and mauves of the Miliuti brothers are so essential to
their works which in form are indecisive and ephemeral. We can,
however, have some idea of the colour scheme typical of the 'Blue
Rose' from the early works of Larionov, although his formal com-
position is far more mature and immediately related to the French
School, than that of his Russian colleagues at this time.
In January 1909, the 'Golden Fleece' sponsored a second Franco-
Russian exhibition. This was no longer in the nature of an introduc-
tion of French art to the Russian public, and only incidentally of the
new Russian painting. It was instead an exhibition of work by artists
of similar ideas, regardless of nationality. The paintings were not
divided into French and Russian sections as on the previous occasion,
but works by the French Fauves were intermingled with those by the
Russians, the latter even more predominantly represented by Larionov
and Goncharova.
Among the French works this year there were several important
pre-Cubist works such as Braque's Le Grand Nu (1908) and Still-Life
(both of which were illustrated in following numbers of the Golden
Fleece devoted to this exhibition). 24 The French represented at this
show were a far smaller and more definite group, limited, apart from
Braque and Le Fauconnier, to the Fauves - Matisse, Vlaminck,
Marquet, Van Dongen and Rouault. The first two painters sent very
recent works influenced by Picasso's pre-Cubist works of 1907-8.
Matisse sent less important works than the year before, chiefly draw-
ings among which was the important Nu appuye sur le bras (1907?).
His reputation was now at its height among Moscow painters, who of
course were familiar with Shchukin's superb recent acquisitions.
The Russian works which hung side by side with these showed a

noticeable change since the previous show, for things were moving

88
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:*,

53 Mikhail Larionov, Fishes, 1906

almost as quickly at this time in Moscow as in Paris. In Larionov's


work there is a continuing influence of the Nabi group. In particular,
that of Vuillard and Bonnard is noticeable in his gentle interiors and
still-lifes such as Fishes. In their quiet colour and insistent brushwork ///. 53
they recall the Neo-Impressionists, Cross and Sisley; Seurat was as
much neglected in Russia as in France - there was not a single work by
this painter in either the Morosov or Shchukin's collections, nor, as
far as I know, in any other Russian collection.
The by the picture-
arbitrary interruption of the scene depicted
frame, which was a favourite device with the Nabi group, was
characteristic of the paintings exhibited by Natalia Goncharova at
this second 'Golden Fleece' exhibition. These were chiefly circus

scenes,and in their excited gesture, exaggerated silhouette and highly


dramatic raised or lowered viewpoint, reveal an interest in Toulouse-

89
1

Lautrec. Likewise influenced by this artist, and also contributors to


this second Salon, were Robert Falk (i 886-1958) and Kuzma Petrov-
Vodkin (1 878-1939), newcomers to the Moscow group. Petrov-
Vodkin had studied at Azbe's studio in Munich and also at the Moscow
77/. 1 College under Leonid Pasternak, the portrait painter and founder-
member of the 'Union of Russian Artists', Levitan, and Serov.
Leaving the College in 1905, he travelled to Africa, where he was
impressed by primitive art, but more particularly by the peculiar
light and colours of that continent. On his return he became an
intimate of the 'Blue Rose' group, although he did not contribute to
the 1907 exhibition. It is typical of him that he did not become
identified with any of the many schools in Russia - or elsewhere. A
short while later, in the second decade of this century, Petrov-Vodkin
began to work out a system of painting based on the idea that space
can be most properly depicted pictorially by means of a curved
horizontal axis, a theory that he later defined at length in two books. 25
He is important in the history of modern painting in Russia chiefly as

54 Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, The Playing Boys, 191


a teacher: after the Revolution he became one of the most influential
professors in the Leningrad Art Academy and helped to form the
taste of many of the first generation of Soviet painters. The Playing III. 54
Boys is a typical example of his early work. Both in his colour prepara-
tion and in the flat, even colour worked over the figures and back-
ground, his work clearly shows the influence of Byzantine art. This
was perhaps by way of Matisse, for there is a mystical, pantheistic
element common to the painting of both artists, and a strong con-
nection between the blue and green colour combinations in such
works as Music and Dance of Matisse and The Playing Boys of Petrov-
Vodkin. The formal construction of this work with the gently
upward-travelling curve was to become a constant in the Russian's
work background to figures held, as it were, in a common ecstasy
as a

of rhythm.
Robert Falk, like Petrov-Vodkin, was a student of the Moscow
College, but they hardly overlapped, for Falk came at the age of
seventeen in the year the other artist left for Africa, in 1905. Falk
belonged in fact to a different generation from the 'Blue Rose' group.
He was untouched by their Symbolist feeling and was from the outset
frankly of the Paris School. At first Toulouse-Lautrec, then Matisse,
and last and most profoundly Cezanne, influenced and directed his
work. He became one of the most prominent members of the Moscow
'Knave of Diamonds' group which was founded in 1909 and was to
become the leading movement - for two years - of the Russian
avant-garde. Later he was important as a teacher in the Soviet period
and continued to paint sensitive melancholy portraits and still-lifes up
to his death.
Alone of the 'Blue Rose' and 'Golden Fleece' artists, Saryan and
Kusnetsov continued to be uninfluenced in the direct and almost
slavish way in which their friends had succumbed to the French Post-
Impressionist school, but the direction is ultimately the same. This
second exhibition revealed a more developed primitive element in
the work of both, but it was an Eastern rather than a Western
primitivism, less a conscious stylization for ulterior motives than a
work, the veiled quality has
natural, direct expression. In Kusnetsov's
still withdrawn, they are
almost disappeared; although his figures are
strongly delineated; although the colour is still muted, it is warm;
desert colours, yellows and browns have replaced the Symbolist

91
1

55 Natalia Goncharova, Hay cutting, 1910

blue-greys. The scenes are more obviously taken from life, and were in
fact drawn in the Kirghiz steppes so beloved by the artist. A third
dimension is also hinted at in the retreating dunes and the slight
warmth of colour in the sky towards the foreground of paintings of
this period., The internal development is thus analogous to the French
movement, and soon there was to be a violent reaction against this
French School, which marked the next phase in the Russian movement.
This was already revealed, in fact, at the end of 1909, when the
'Golden Fleece' held a third exhibition which consisted almost
entirely of the work of Larionov and Goncharova. These two painters
now emerge as the new leaders in Russian painting and a new stage in
the modern movement in Russian art begins.

92

56 Natalia Goncharova, Dancing Peasants, 191


CHAPTER FOUR

1909-11

Since the 1890s a literary element had been predominant in Russian


painting, but already by 1907 began to give way to new values
this

of 'pure painting'. The first of this new movement had been the
signs
'Blue Rose' group exhibition and the Golden Fleece magazine with its
sponsorship of French Post-Impressionist and Fauve painting described
in the previous chapter. During the next three years a primitivist
movement arose in Russia and became a conscious style. This style
was based on a cultivation of folk-art, and a synthesis of current
European schools. Its chief exponents were the painters Larionov and
Goncharova.
During these three years which mark the emergence of this new
school in Russian painting, Moscow became a meeting-place for the
most revolutionary movements in European art. Thus Cubism from
'Kunstlervereinigung' of the future 'Blaue Reiter' move-
Paris, the
ment from Munich and the Futurism of Marinetti had an immediate
impact on the Russian art world.
The relationship between Italian Futurism and the Russian move-
ment of the same name is complex and controversial. It is, for example,
debated when exactly Marinetti first visited Russia: some say that he
came in late 1909 or early 19 10 to Moscow and Saint Petersburg on
his general propaganda tour of European capitals with his newly
announced Futurist ideology. Other Soviet critics, notably Nikolai
1

Khardzhev, the most distinguished scholar of this period in Russian


art and literature, says that Marinetti came only once to Russia, in
early 19 14, when he was violently attacked by the Russian Futurist
artists and poets. It was after this visit, which is the only one to be

established beyond doubt, that Marinetti is reported to have said that


'the Russians are false Futurists, who distort the true meaning of the
great religion for the renewal of the world by means of Futurism'. 2
However, this date of Marinetti's first visit to Russia is perhaps of
formal significance only, for his Futurist Manifesto was translated and
published in the Russian press almost immediately after its appearance
in Figaro in 1909. 3
The name is, however, almost all that unites the Russian
'Futurism'
and the movements. This name, like almost all those used to
Italian
describe artistic movements up to the First World War in Russia, is of
obvious Western derivation. But as with Impressionism and Cubism,
the interpretation of Futurism in Russia owes little more than a
superficial calligraphy to the Western counterparts. 'Cubo-Futurism'
is a happier term to describe this Russian movement, alike painting

and literary, whose dual development is impossible to separate, and


this is the term which I have used to describe work of post-1910,
post-primitivist, in Russian painting.
Russia, in fact, became
a truly international centre during these next
years up of the First World War in 1914: on the basis
to the outbreak
of this international meeting-ground of ideas, the Cubo-Futurist
movement emerged. While intrinsically bound up with, and owing
much to, contemporary Western European movements - reflected
in its name - Cubo-Futurism was a movement peculiar to Russia and
immediately preceded the schools of abstract painting which arose in
Russia during the years 1911-21, in which the Russians emerged at

last as pioneers in the 'modern movement'.


The leader and organizer of the many little exhibitions which are
characteristic of the years 1907 to 191 3 was Mikhail Larionov.

94
57, 5 8 Gingerbread figures
made in traditional wooden
carved moulds from
Arkhangelsk

59 Niko Pirosmanishvili, The actress Margarita, 1909

60 A nineteenth-century Russian
lubok (peasant woodcut)
illustrating a tale by Knlov

ftpuMt man apjuu,


HpAK 8* tBUtl

X*T*. tUUK(S*.Ta
BMP* *- * mk4
8* affpomtt.H9Bnv, 3*
6 1 Mikhail Larionov, The Soldiers (second version), 1909

Larionov the leader and Goncharova his brilliant pupil are two
personalities of fundamental importance in the history of the modern
movement in Russia. Their work in retrospect lacks the single-
mindedness and logic of the development of Kasimir Malevich and
Vladimir Tatlin, but it played a vital historic role in the Russian
artistic world of the years leading up to 1914, and without it, it is

difficult to imagine how Malevich and Tatlin could have arrived at

their historic conclusions. For Goncharova and Larionov selected and


sifted turn by turn the most live and progressive ideas in Europe and
Russia from the beginning of the century up to the First World War,

96
when they left the country as designers for Diaghilev's ballet. It is,

above all, minds that the work of these


for their receptive, selective
artists is important: in its development one can trace the course of that

assimilation of the foreign and domestic influences whose synthesis is


at the basis of the Suprematist and Constructivist movements.

At this moment - when all these different influences were on the


point of synthesis - a third personality emerged to succeed Larionov
and Goncharova. This third leader of the Cubo-Futurist school was
Kasimir Malevich. Vladimir Tatlin was also, in 191 1, drawn into this
circle of intense activity by the forceful personality of Larionov. It
was through Larionov and his exhibitions that these two artists first
met, and that the Russian school became a reality.
At the third exhibition of the 'Golden Fleece' in December 1909,
Larionov and Goncharova first launched the new 'Primitivist' style.
From the works sent to this exhibition one can first discern a free use
of a Fauve-derived boldness of line and abstract use of colour as
expressive entities in their own right: this new freedom is likewise
reflected in the turning to national folk-art traditions for that direct-
ness and simplicity which Gauguin and Cezanne had taught them to
appreciate. Embroidery from Siberia, traditional pastry forms and Ills 57, 38,
toys, and the 'lubok' - peasant woodcuts - were the sources from 60
which Larionov and Goncharova drew their inspiration in this new
primitive style. The 'lubok' dates from the seventeenth century in
Russia and was similar to the English Chapbooks. They were at first
religious, then political in subject, or often enough simply a means of
circulating songs and dances to the peasants. They were produced in
the towns for circulation among the peasantry. The 'lubok' was very
far-reaching in its influence at this time in German as well as Russian
Another national tradition which influenced this 'Primitivist'
art circles.
style was that of icon painting introduced by Goncharova, which later
proved a highly significant influence in the development of both
Malevich and Tatlin's work.
We must pause to fill in some of the background to the lives of
Goncharova and Larionov.
Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova was born in a small village in the
Tula province, south-east of Moscow, in 1881, of an ancient noble
family. Her father's ancestor had been an architect to Peter the Great,
and Sergei Goncharov continued the tradition. Like many of their

97
!<:,-'

62
Natalia Goncharova,
Madonna and Child,
1905-7

kind, however, the Goncharov family had become much reduced in


wealth since the of the merchant class in the nineteenth century.
rise

Sergei Goncharov was a descendant of the Pushkin family through his


mother Natalia, who was the daughter of the poet. Natalia Goncha-
rova's mother was a member of the Belyaev family which had done
so much to encourage the nineteenth-century nationalist movement
in music. This formidable family tradition marks Goncharova apart
from the other members of this Cubo-Futurist movement, who were
usually either peasant-born or of the small tradesmen class.

Goncharova grew up on the family's country estate, and in spite of


her removal at the age often to a school in Moscow, she says that she
always remained hostile to urban life. It is interesting that she, more
than any other of her colleagues, shared the emotional preoccupation
with machine-life of the Italian Futurists, a mood reflected in her
works of 19 1 2-14.
In 1898 she began attending sculpture classes at the Moscow College
under Pavel Trubetskoi, one of the Russian sculptors of the 'World
of Art' movement, whose work is related to Rodin. It was soon after
this that Goncharova first met Larionov, likewise a student in the

98
63 Early nineteenth-century Russian lubok The Sircti

College time. From now on, the two artists were inseparable
at this

both work and life. In 1903 Goncharova began exhibiting at


in their
the big Russian Salons. Her work of this period was much more timid
than that of Larionov. At first they were both much influenced by
Borissov-Mussatov; such a work as Hoar Frost, which Goncharova
sent to the 1906 'World of Art' exhibition, is an example of this early
period. It was at this exhibition that these two artists first came in
contact with the dynamic personality of Diaghilev, with whom they
later became close collaborators. Already at this date, it was due to

the perspicacity of Diaghilev that they began to emerge as new


personalities in the artistic scene. He invited them to contribute not
only to the 'World of Art' exhibition of 1906, but also to the Russian
exhibition which he was organizing at the Paris Salon d'Automne
of the same year (see p. 54). This latter exhibition was the occasion of
Larionov and Goncharova's first visit to Paris.

64 Natalia Goncharova,
Study in Ornament,
1913?

99
Goncharova's interest in icon painting was an early development
and was probably influenced directly by the activities of the
Abramtsevo colony, whose members were now successful and
established artists working particularly in the theatre. There were
others among the second generation 'World of Art' painters, such as
Bilibin and Stelletsky, who were also engaged in an attempt to adapt
the Russo-Byzantine tradition to modern pictorial demands. Goncha-
rova's earliest works in this style date from 1903 to 1905, but most of
these works the artist claims to have destroyed. But even in the
///. 62 surviving examples one can discern the characteristic brilliant range
of colour typical of Goncharova's mature works; here also is the rich
ornament and strong linear rhythm which this artist so brilliantly
exploited in her later theatrical designs. This flair for ornament
became almost a scientific investigation for Goncharova, and together
with her use of icon painting as a source of pictorial composition is
her chief independent contribution to the modern movement in
Russia.
Thus one can distinguish two streams in Goncharova's work: her
vigorous and independent research in reviving national traditions, and
her more timid and academic interpretations of the current European
styles. These two streams continued in her work until about 19 10,
when the student discipline based on studies of the work of Vrubel,
Borissov-Mussatov, Brueghel, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Toulouse-
Lautrec and Maurice Denis, to mention but a few, became reconciled
with her experiments in the Russo-Byzantine styles under the impact
of the French Fauves. These works of 1910-12 by Goncharova such
Ills 55, 56 as Dancing Peasants and Hay cutting were, as we shall see, the direct

source of Malevich's inspiration at this period. Not only did he make


use of the same colour range and similar pictorial devices but often
even the subject and title were the same as pictures by Goncharova.
Mikhail Fyodorovich Larionov was born in Teraspol on the borders
of the Ukraine and Poland in 1881. He was actually born in the house
of his maternal grandfather, Fyodor Petrovsky, a retired farmer, for
his father, who was a military doctor, was stationed in a near-by
barracks. Mikhail Larionov's grandfather was a sailor by profession
and came from Archangel. It was to the Petrovskys and Teraspol that
Mikhail returned for his summer holidays after he had been dispatched
to the Voskresensky 'Real Gymnasium' in Moscow in 1 891 This habit .

100
65
Natalia Goncharova,
Flight into Egypt,
1908-9

continued throughout his later painting days up to the time he left

Russia in 191 4; many of his most remarkable paintings were done at


the family home in Teraspol, away from the noisy bustle of the town.
At the age of fourteen Larionov left school and began preparing
for the competitive examination to enter the Moscow College of
Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Two years later he took the
examination, one of 160 candidates trying for thirty places. He came
thirty-third on the list, but three successful candidates were turned
down for lack of other academic qualifications, and Larionov, who
had obtained a scientific certificate from his Gymnasium, thus scraped
into the College. He was seventeen when he signed the usual ten-year
contract with the College on entering in the autumn of ii

IOI

During the next ten however, Larionov rarely attended the


years,
College's studios, but worked
at home. For the first year he was living

with his parents, but then he was provided with his own studio and
flat. From the beginning he worked with phenomenal ease, producing

a record number of works. This was so overwhelmingly the case that

on one occasion, on sending in paintings for the monthly inspection


which was the only stipulation for the students of the College,
Larionov took up the entire space allocated to the students of his year.
The Director of the institution, Prince Lvov, intervened personally
and asked Larionov to remove some of his works. Larionov - whose
obstinacy is fabled - refused and was thereupon expelled from the
College. The expulsion made little difference to him, and anyway he
was taken back after a year, in the autumn of 1903. He continued at
the College until 1908 when he was called up for military service.
This lasted nine months, and Larionov spent the winter months in the
Moscow Kremlin and the summer months just outside the city in a
tent-camp. From this time dates his 'Soldiers' series which is of great
importance in turning away from the French School towards the
development of a nationalist 'Primitivist' style.
Larionov's first mature works earned for him the name of 'the
Ills 50-32 finest Russian Impressionist'. This 'Impressionist' period covers the
years 1902 to 1906. Gradually the initial Symbolist mood is dispelled,
the forms become more and the palette changes from
clearly defined
the characteristic pale blues and greens of the earlier movement to
more vivid reds and yellows. From wood and river scenes, still-life,
portraits and figure-scapes become the dominant themes. Although

_-, w

66
Mikhail Larionov,
Evening after the Rain,
1908

67
Mikhail Larionov,
Walk in a Provincial Town,
1907-8
usually described as 'Impressionist' it would, however, be truer to
point to the work of Bonnard and Vuillard as Larionov's inspiration
at this time, especially in works such as The Courtyard or Spring
Landscape. In Fishes, Larionov used a longer stroke reminiscent of /'/. 53
Van Gogh, producing an rhythm on the canvas surface, a
all-over
pictorial unity in which colour and form emerge as entities in their
own right. This influence of Vuillard, Bonnard, Matisse and Picasso
are all work of 1906-7. Individual objects and
evident in Larionov's
geometric perspective are now dismissed. The omission of sky and
the 'close-up' approach to the elements of the composition become a
constant characteristic. Unlike Goncharova and Malevich, Larionov
seldom, even in his later Primitivist work, adopted the colour range
of Russian folk-art but remained faithful to his early muted palette in
which pale and gentle yellows are predominant.
blues, soft greens
Again, unlike Goncharova, Larionov's mood is detached and
restrained, whereas she, one feels, is swept away by her intense
emotion. Goncharova's work hits one with violence, its impact is
immediate; Larionov slyly insinuates his message with a spare but
eloquent line and an extreme modesty of means. She glories in the
sensuous qualities of paint and the eloquence of rhythmic line; he, it
seems, is at pains to de-materialize his material almost in the way that
Malevich strives in his Suprematist works to subordinate paint and
'spiritual' level of communication.
canvas to a purely
Whereas Goncharova's work is highly eclectic - and at its fullest in

the theatre - Larionov quietly pursued an internal logic, whose


intuitive movement is reasoned and consciously examined. Fishes is
F 68
Mikhail Larionov,
\J f The Hairdresser,
1907

the last of his 'Impressionist' works. They were succeeded by such


paintings as Bathers in the Morning, which he sent to the second
'Golden Fleece' exhibition of March 1909, where the influence of
Cezanne, Van Gogh and Matisse are clearly discernible, both in the
formal composition and the theme. However, Larionov has not
succumbed to a literal imitation of these artists as Goncharova did
during this period. The hatching brushstroke of Cezanne has been
replaced by an irregular, scrubby definition of forms; the typical
Cezanne hanging over the water, and the gesturing nude bathers
tree
are almost caricatured and each figure pursues its own activity
unrelated to the rest. This caricature of a social scene reducing it to a
series of private, unrelated actions has been further developed in
Ills 66, 67 Evening after the Rain and Walk in a Provincial Town, among the first
of his Primitivist works, both of which Larionov sent to the third
'Golden Fleece' exhibition of December 1909, which as I have already
mentioned was the first public launching of this Primitivist style.

104
69
Mikhail Larionov,
Soldier at the Hairdresser,
1909

In the majority of Larionov's works at this exhibition, modelling


and geometric perspective have almost entirely disappeared, as in
Soldier at the Hairdresser. In the 'Provincial Dandy' sequence the figures ///. 69
are doll-like caricatures, little more than skits on an easily recognizable
type. In many of works the dominance of the horizontal is
these
evident. This is new constant characteristic in which the
a noticeable
influence of the 'lubok' appears. This horizontal hems the action of
the work into a narrow strip the figures seen in silhouette emphasize
;

this horizontal plane as they move parallel to the picture-surface.


One thus gets the impression of a brief moment arbitrarily cut short,
destroying the idea of a picture as a world complete in itself. Many of

these 'strip-cartoon' works produce an of child-like indifference


effect
to conventional rules: the deliberate distortion of the figures in Walk
in a Provincial Town, for instance, is used to convey the salient charac-
teristic of each; the inconsequential sign hanging among the trees,
the unrelated figures and the delightful, sophisticated pig, so much the

105
70 Mikhail Larionov, Soldiers (first version), 1908

most dignified and purposeful personage - all strutting, posing and


which by common consent, rather than visual
strolling along a space
probability, serves as a street.
In every way Larionov now began to mock at the prevailing

conventions. In his 'Soldier' sequence of 1908-11 we can follow the


stages of the artist's distortion of anatomy. The figure of the soldier
///. 70 in the foreground of Soldiers of 1908, for example, has been repeated
III. 71 in The Relaxing Soldier of 191 1. In the later work the legs have been,
as it were, pressed up against the picture-frame and the hands and feet
have assumed monumental proportions. The use of erotic subjects
was likewise a favourite mood of Larionov's during these next few
Ills 72-74 years. Thus we have his 'Prostitute' series, and scribbled bawdy
remarks and caricatures in his 'Soldier' works. The deliberate 'rude-

106
1

ness'of Larionov's work of 1907-13, his disrespect for both pictorial


and conventions, was a general characteristic of the so-called
social
Futurist movement in Russia - so little resembling the Italian move-
ment - of which Larionov's work is the first expression. In Russia
Futurism came first in painting and later in poetry - indeed almost all
the poets came to their writing from painting, and many of the
literary devices in Russian Futurist poetry can be directly related to
Larionov's painting of this time; for example, the use of 'irreverent,
irrelevant' associations; the imitationof children's art; the adaptation
of folk-art imagery and motifs. The manifestoes of the Russian
Futurist writers such as 'A slap at public taste', 4 and the one quoted

71 Mikhail Lanonov, The Relaxing Soldier, 191


2

below, show how closely they followed Larionov's attack on every


convention:

The word against the meaning


The word against language (of the Academies, 'literary')
The word against rhythm (musical, conventional)
The word against metre
The word against syntax
The word against etymology

Their use of epithet, street language, out of context and jumbled


words, or eroticism and infantile language, of archaic language and
breaking down words until nothing is left but sound - all these devices
were of the Russian Futurist poets Mayakovsky, Kruchenikh,
typical
Khlebnikov, Elena Guro and the Burliuks during the years 19 12-14
when this movement flourished in literature - all of them can be
traced to the work of Larionov and Goncharova of 1 908-1 3. 5
Although for the first time painting thus led the way in Russia,
painting and poetry were still intimately bound up together, and
almost all early publications of these Futurist poets had illustrations

72 Mikhail Larionov, Many a, c. 19 12 73 Mikhail Larionov, Many a (a second version), c. 191


74
Mikhail Larionov,
Spring 1912

by Larionov, Goncharova and other members of their group. In the


same way as Larionov incorporated lettering into his works in the
'Soldier' works of 1908-9, in his portrait of Tatlin of 191 3, in Spring Ills 61, 99
1912 and his later stage designs such as Bouffon for Diaghilev, so the 74
poets used Cubo-Futurist pictorial devices in their work. In many of
these pages the poem is written out by the same hand that composed
the design, and the two elements flow into each other to make a single
visual entity; this represents very happily the relationship between
artists and poets, and incidentally is a premonition of the Con-

structivist and Suprematist experiments in typographical design in


which this visual unity was the consciously declared aim (see
Chapter VIII).
Having digressed in order to trace the development in Larionov and
Goncharova's work up to the Cubo-Futurist movement of 19 12, we
must now return to pick up the thread of the general history during
these years.

109
The Primitivist movement was not simply a development in the
work and activities of Larionov and Goncharova; it might even be
said to spring from the meeting of these two artists with the Burliuk
brothers. This meeting took place in 1907.
David Burliuk and his younger brother Vladimir were the sons of
a wealthy bailiff who at this time was managing the estate of Count
Mordvinov near the Black Sea at a place called Chernianka, or as the
brothers liked to call it in the old Greek version of the name, Hilea.
The two brothers attended the local Kazan school of art in Odessa,
and then left in 1903 to study for two years with Azbe in Munich.
After this they spent a year working in Paris before returning home
to Russia. Their background is therefore fairly similar to that of
Larionov and Goncharova, although their initial training in a
provincial school was of a much lower standard. David Burliuk later
made this good by attending the Moscow College from 191 1 to 191 3,
when he was expelled in company with his close friend and colleague,
Vladimir Mayakovsky.
David Burliuk first came to Moscow in the autumn of 1907, on the
invitation of a Moscow businessman named Shemshunn. Shemshurin
was typical of the many small patrons of art of this time in Russia; he
kept open table to any artist who cared to turn up in his house at
five-thirty in the evening. But woe to those who arrived too late,
for Shemshurin was a man of fanatical punctuality; the doors of his
dining-room were opened to whoever might be in the ante-room at
five-twenty-five and firmly closed again at five-thirty. Many of the
artists of this Primitivist movement who were poor and entirely

unrecognized were grateful for such hospitality; it is related, for


example, that Kasimir Malevich was a frequent visitor in this house.
Shemshurin's house was almost an exhibition hall for these artists.
The merchant refused to buy their work - saying that money always
spoiled one's relations with people - but offered his walls for them to
hang their paintings on. This was accepted with alacrity since many
of the artists lived in such miserable lodgings that they were unable to
see their own work as a finished whole - it is said that Goncharova
worked on her large paintings in so small a room that she only saw
them pieced together at exhibitions.
On this first visit to Moscow in 1907, David Burliuk soon came in
contact with the Russian avant-garde. He met not only the 'Blue Rose'

no
group, but, more important, Larionov, Goncharova and the Kiev
painter, Alexandra Exter. Soon after David's arrival he and his brother
Vladimir, who had also now come to Moscow, arranged an exhibition
entitled 'Stefanos/Venok' - 'The Wreath' - which brought together
the above-mentioned artists. This little exhibition was important as
the model for many other little group exhibitions which mark the
development of painting in Russia during the next decade up to the
Revolution of 191 7.
The meeting of the Burliuks with these Moscow painters seemed to
give new impetus to the modern movement. The pace of events in
the Russian art world during the next few years is overwhelming; so
much happened, so rapidly, in so many places, that it is difficult to
piece it together so as to make a pattern of the whole. By reducing it
to a pattern, one would miss the truth, for this chaotic confusion is the
background and an intimate part of this story. I have therefore tried
to pick out a few of the more obvious events and discoveries as an
indication of the direction of ideas.
Both David Burliuk and Mikhail Larionov were personalities of
formidable energy and organizing ability. During the brief marriage
of their forces they together attracted all that was most vital in the
current Russian art worlds. Both were large men and gifted with

75 Mikhail Larionov,
Portrait of Vladimir Burliuk,
c. 1908
great physical strength. The Burliuk brothers in particular were
///. 75 enormous young men; Vladimir indeed was a professional wrestler
and always took a twenty-pound pair of dumb-bells around with him
on his journeys in the cause of the new art and literature - it was
David, however, who was made to carry this spectacular equipment,
for Vladimir insisted that it would hurt his muscles.
Shortly after the 'Wreath/Stefanos' exhibition, on the marriage of
their sister Ludmilla, the Burliuks moved to Saint Petersburg. As in
Moscow, they began to collect around them a group of sympathetic
poets, painters and composers. Soon they organized another exhibition,
'The Link', in which they all took part - for everyone in this little
world painted and wrote poetry or music. 'The Link', however, had
little success - none of the established 'Blue Rose' group took part,

and the unknown Larionov, Goncharova, Exter, Fonvisin, the


Burliuks themselves and Lentulov did not sell any paintings. Lentulov,
a student in the Moscow College, shortly afterwards married the
daughter of a very rich Moscow businessman which proved greatly
to the advantage of his friends. It was from this source, for example,
that the 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition of December 1910 found its
financial backing.

76 David Burliuk, My Cossack Ancestor, c. 1908


1

77 Vladimir Burliuk,
Portrait of
Benedict Livshits,
191

Disappointed by the lack of response to their exhibition, the


Burliuks returnedhome to Hilea for the summer. Larionov accom-
panied them. They spent the summer months working together and
discussing their ideas and plans for the future, which were of the most
revolutionary and ambitious nature. It was during this summer and
the following year (1909) that Burliuk brothers, following
the
Larionov's example, began working in a style less identified with the Ills 76, 77
French School, and with a growing interest in incorporating national
folk-art traditions. David Burliuk's work of this period, although
similar in its references to that of Larionov and Goncharova, is above
all literary in its approach. (Soon after his split with Larionov in 191 1,

David Burliuk made friends with Mayakovsky and together they


began to devote themselves to poetry, both of them trying to
incorporate the previous years' experience as painters.)

113
In the autumn of 1908 the Burliuks went to visit Alexandra Exter
in Kiev.Here they organized another exhibition - in the street - which
was a great success. It was almost identical with the one they had
organized together in Petersburg earlier in the year, although a few
of the recent works by those artists within easy reach of Kiev were
included. From the proceeds on paintings sold, the Burliuk brothers
returned to spend the winter in Moscow.
The year 1909 was to prove eventful. It brought together more

sympathetic personalities and with the ensuing consolidation of ideas


the Primitivist movement emerged as a definite school. After the
second Franco-Russian 'Golden Fleece' Salon of January 1909 a
number of small group exhibitions were organized, such as 'The
Impressionists'. This exhibition was held in Saint Petersburg and
sponsored by a well-known personality in the art world, the military
doctor Kulbin. 'The crazy doctor', as he was affectionately termed by
his acquaintances, was an ardent enthusiast of progressive painting,
even more generous than Shemshurin, for Kulbin not only wrote
about their exhibitions in the press and sponsored a number of shows,
but also actually bought paintings. He himself dabbled in painting and
contributed fourteen works to this 'Impressionists' exhibition. The
exhibition consisted chiefly of landscapes, and was a very modest
and unadventurous affair: it is notable chiefly for introducing new
members to the avant-garde, among whom were the Futurist composer-
painter Matiushin, a close friend of Malevich's, his wife the poet-
painter Elena Guro, and Alexei Kruchenikh, the future champion of
Malevich and a leader of the Futurist poets, but still at this time
Abramtsevo pottery by Vaulin, the head of the
practising as a painter.
by now flourishing Moscow factory, was also included and thus a
physical link was made between two nationalist movements, the
Primitivist and that of the Abramtsevo colony.
'The Impressionists' exhibition did not include Larionov and
Goncharova, who, it will be remembered, monopolized the third
'Golden Fleece' exhibition of December 1909 with their new
Primitivist works.
In 1 9 10 these various little groups in Moscow, Petersburg, Odessa
and Kiev began to come together as a united movement. This was
reflected in a number of exhibitions of a more ambitious nature held
in the various towns during the year and culminating in the Moscow

114
3

'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition of December of that year, when the


whole of this avant-garde was united for the first tune.
In March a newly formed Petersburg society called the 'Union o\
Youth' held an exhibition, the first of many of this name. It was a fairly
haphazard affair, although it did introduce two new members to the
scene, Olga Rosanova and Pavel Filonov. The ensuing exhibitions of
the society, which were held twice annually, were events o{ great
interest and importance in bringing together the latest work of both
the Petersburg and Moscow artists. The 'Union of Youth' was
financed by another merchant, L.Zheverzheyev. Apart from exhi-
bitions, it sponsored many public discussions which became a
feature of Moscow and Petersburg life during the next few years.
These discussions were always very well attended, for the Futurists
were regarded as the best possible entertainment in their crazy
enthusiasms, wild declamations and ludicrous appearance. The
discussions, in fact, became the chief means of livelihood for many of
the group. In an attempt to break down the prevailing conventions,
the artists and poets carried on their battle in every conceivable guise.
It was a regular sight to see members of this little world, Larionov,

Goncharova, Mayakovsky or the Burliuk brothers, walking along a


main Moscow street with flowers, and algebraic or Rayonnist signs
painted on their cheeks. During their 'Futurist Tour' of 191 3-14, in
which Mayakovsky, Kamensky and the Burliuk brothers visited
seventeen towns throughout the country, broadcasting their ideas,
David Burliuk wore on his forehead the notice; 'I - Burliuk'. In 191
they made a film together, named Drama in Cabaret No. 13. This was 77/. 78
simply a record of their everyday behaviour, strolling in and out of
shops and restaurants in brilliant coloured waistcoats, the men wearing
earrings and with radishes or spoons in their buttonholes. This was a

parody of the Symbolists with their cultivation of the exquisite, the


green carnations and lilies of aesthetes such as Oscar Wilde. For these
artists were very much a part of the society that they were attacking:

their verse and picture construction differed little from that of the
established Symbolist poets and 'World of Art' painters - only they
blunted, coarsened, simplified and made emphatic the vocabulary of
their predecessors. By thus bringing the language of these 'ivory tower'
creators 'down to reality' - out into the street, into the everyday life
of the common citizen - these artists sought, with the only weapons

115
78 A scene from the film Drama
in Cabaret No. ij, 1914. This
picture shows Larionov, his eyes
painted with green tears and his
hair combed over his face, with
Goncharova in his arms, hair
flowing and with a bawdy face
drawn over her face and breast

they had, to bring about the reconciliation of art and the society which
had dismissed art to its ivory tower. In their antics and public clown-
ing, one can detect an intuitive, naive attempt to restore the artist to his

place in ordinary life, to allow him to become, as they themselves so


profoundly felt the need to be, an active citizen. Surely it was for this
reason that so much of the immense energy of these young artists was
directed towards rousing a reaction in the public? How else can one
explain their numerous appearances in cabarets and restaurants, their
Ills 79, So ludicrous and bitter public self-mocking or the ridiculous clothes in
which they dressed themselves? Why this frantic desire for self-
advertisement, unless provoked by a need at all costs to be noticed?
Is not again the social conscience that has always been so active in
this
the Russian artist, even expressed in so twisted a form ?
The first 'Union of Youth' exhibition was succeeded by a Salon
arranged by Vladimir Izdebsky in Odessa. It marked the introduction
of the Munich School in Russia. Vladimir Izdebsky was a founder-
member, with Vassily Kandinsky and Alexei Yavlensky, of the
'Neuekunstlervereinigung' which they had founded in Munich the
previous year. This Russo-German group of painters was the nucleus
of the 'Blaue Reiter' movement of 191 1 and 1912, which included a

116
79 A from the film Creation can't be
shot
bought, 8. Standing in the background arc
1 91
David Burliuk and Vladimir Mayakovsky

80 A close-up of a scene in the ballet Chout


(Bouffon). The costumes and scenery for this
production which Diaghilev first staged in
1 92 1 in Paris, were designed by Mikhail

Larionov in 1916
number of Moscow artists. Kandinsky first met the Burliuks and

Larionov and Goncharova at this Salon organized by his friend


Izdebsky in their native town. It was the first of such exhibitions to
which Kandinsky had contributed in Russia and he sent fifty-two
paintings; Gabriele Munther likewise contributed to this event as well
as the Burliuks, Larionov, Goncharova and Exter.
It is interesting at this point to see exactly how close the Russian
avant-garde stood to the progressive groups in other European centres.
Many of the Munich 'Blaue Reiter' group were, in fact, Russians. This
is less when one recalls that in the 1890s and the first years
surprising
of this century was more natural for the Russian art student to make
it

for Munich than for Paris, as we have seen with the 'World of Art'
leaders, such as Benois. It is important to remember that Kandinsky

belongs to 'World of Art' generation, for in many ways this


this
explains the lack of sympathy for his ideas among the next generation
of his fellow-countrymen. Although there was actually little contact
between Kandinsky and the original members of this movement of
the 1890s, his paintings and drawings of pre-1911 bear a very strong
relationship to the style of such people as Konstantin Somov, and his
writing is very close to that of the 'World of Art' poets, in particular
to that of Andrei Bely. Kandinsky is also very close spiritually to the
///. 81 Lithuanian composer-painter Ciurlionis, who worked in Saint
Petersburg from 1906 until his death in 191 1. In 191 2 he had a section
at the current 'World of Art' exhibition entirely devoted to his work,
and there was a number of 'Apollon' likewise devoted to this strange
artist. 6 Kandinsky's attitude and that of the 'Blaue Reiter' group as a

whole is essentially Symbolist: the subjective truth, the sacred


moment of inspiration, the very idea of the Spiritual in Art - as he
entitled his book - all unite this movement with the 'World of Art'.
The Burliuk brothers were following in this same tradition of the
Russian turning naturally to Germany when they set out for Munich
in 1902 and were drawn - like Benois ten years before them - by the
work of Holbein, Menzel, Liebermann and Leibl, as David Burliuk
himself writes. 7 In Munich the brothers studied with Azbe, where
Kandinsky was already working - though there appears to have been
no contact at this date between them.
Kandinsky, like the 'World of Art' painters, sent his work to the
Vienna, Munich and Berlin Secession group exhibitions, rather than

118
to the Paris Salons, and as a result these centres became aware much
sooner than Paris of the work of the Russian avant-garde painters and
architects. The following is a review of the Russian section at an
exhibition of architecture and interior design held in Vienna in 1909:

A very short while ago it was a saying that if one scratched a

Russian, one discovered a barbarian. Now we understand this more


correctly, and in this barbarian we find a great artistic advantage.
This fund of raw material succoured by geographical and ethno-
graphical circumstances, is a national treasure-house from which
the Russians will long draw. A few years ago Western art had to
acknowledge the invasion of the Japanese. Last spring at our
architectural exhibition the Russians spoke, and everyone's
attention was attracted. We were made to envy them for the
remains of barbarism which they have managed to preserve. The
West has become a common meeting-ground, invaded by distant
and foreign peoples as in the last days of the Roman Empire, and
while they wish to learn from us, it turns out that they are our
teachers. The barbarian embraces with the most elegant of modern-
8
ists, and each completes the other.

Mikalojus Ciurlionis,
Sonata of the Stars.
Andante, 1908
'Thisembrace of the Russians with the most extreme left movements
of our Western art', as the above-quoted critic continues, soon led
the Russians to turn their attention to Paris rather than Germany.
The change happened about 1904, with the end of the World of Art
magazine, the beginning of the Morosov and Shchukin collections
of Post-Impressionist painting, and the subsequent 'Golden Fleece'.
By 1906 Russian artists were beginning to attend Paris studios rather
than those of Munich or Vienna, and Paris in its turn became aware of
the Russian School with Diaghilev's exhibition of 1906 at the Salon
d' Automne and was won over to enthusiasm by his ballet productions.
After 1 9 10 the influence of the various schools had become so wide-
spread and intermingled with each other that one can no longer
point to Russia as being a directly imitative home of various move-
ments. It has become a centre in its own right of which the 'Knave
of Diamonds' exhibition was a testimony.
This first exhibition of the 'Knave of Diamonds' is so important
that it is interesting to analyze the works which were sent to it in
detail.
The French works were selected by Alexandre Mercereau. This
French writer and critic had been a regular visitor in the Russian art
world since his appointment as correspondent to the Golden Fleece.
The works which he selected for this exhibition were chiefly those of
Gleizes, Le Fauconnier and Lhote, and in consequence the ideas of
these painters became increasingly familiar and influential in Russia
at this time. Gleizes and Metzinger's work Du Cubisme, which was
translated and published in two editions in Russia a year after its
appearance in France, 9 became, together with the formulae and
writing of Cezanne published by Bernard, the chief texts of the
movement in Russia between 19 10 and 191 4.
Apart from work by these minor Cubists, no other French painters
were represented, although in the following exhibitions of the same
name a number of others were represented, in particular Leger, who
had a great following in Russia. Although the name of Delaunay
appeared in the catalogue to the second 'Knave of Diamonds'
exhibition of 1912, no work of his was actually sent. More pointedly,
Picasso and Matisse sent nothing to this exhibition, but their recent
work was of course well known in Moscow due to the constant
acquisitions of Shchukin and Morosov.

120
12 Natalia Goncharova, The Looking-glass, 1912
The Munich group was well represented at the first 'Knave of
Diamonds' exhibition, which pre-dated the first 'Blaue Reiter' show
by six months. The second 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition was even
more biased towards the Munich School, and this exhibition was, in
fact, almost identical in its make-up with the 'Blaue Reiter' show

of 1912.
To the first 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition, Kandinsky and
Yavlensky sent four works each. (Kandinsky sent four Improvisations
- a, b, c, d.) In spite of the common interest in folk-art, the Munich
group was isolated in feeling from the rest of the exhibition, although
some of the Burliuks' work came close to it. It was not until the
second 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition that the 'Briicke' and 'Blaue
Reiter' groups were fully introduced in Russia, by which time the
chief personalities of the Moscow groups, Larionov and Goncharova,
had become so extreme in their nationalist ideas that they had shaken
off 'Munich decadence' and the 'cheap Orientalism of the Paris
School'. 10
The core of the first 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition was the work
of four Russian students from the Moscow College who had been
expelled from the school in 1909 for 'leftism'. The four were Aristarkh
Lentulov (1 878-1943), Piotr Konchalovsky (1 876-1956), Robert

Falk (1 886-1958) and Ilya Mashkov (1 884-1944). At first they were


known as 'the Cezannists'. Their 'leftism' consisted in a too marked
devotion to the work of Cezanne, Van Gogh and Matisse. Later,
when the German School and the Primitivists had abandoned them,
these four remained and took over the name 'Knave of Diamonds',
turning it - to Larionov's loudly remarked disgust - into an official

exhibiting society.
Lentulov has already been mentioned in connection with the Bur-
liuk brothers. He had exhibited with them and Larionov and Gon-
charova at all the little provincial exhibitions of the past three years : it

was Lentulov's brother-in-law who had provided the 3000 roubles


to launch the first 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition. Lentulov's work
of this date was typical of his three 'Cezannist' colleagues. In particular
the influence of Le Fauconnier predominated in the works which he
of 1909
sent to this exhibition. (Le Fauconnier sent his Portrait ofjouve
and then U
Abondance of 1910-11 to the first and second 'Knave of
Diamonds' exhibitions.) His portrait entitled Study shows the use of

122
83 Hya Mashkov,
Portrait ofE. I. Kirkalda,
1910

traditional perspective and shading which were soon to give way to


a more Matisse-like sweeping line and decorative pattern, using
brilliant colour.
The use of brilliant sated colour, an intense surface patterning and
a radical simplification of form were to become the chief character-
isticsof these four painters' work. The work of Ilya Mashkov is per-
haps the most typical of this group. In his Portrait of E.I. Kirkalda, ///. 83
which he sent to the first exhibition of the 'Knave of Diamonds', the
influence of Matisse is all too obvious and undigested. In particular
it recalls Matisse's Portrait of Greta Moll which was reproduced in

colour in the Golden Fleece of 1909. There is the same use of a thick
line to delineate the forms; brilliant, highly unnaturalistic colour, in
particular in the flesh tones; and a highly ornate silhouette in the
hair-styles of the two ladies. The curious juxtaposition of the entirely
two-dimensional Chinese painting as a background to the three-
dimensional seated figure emphasizes the inconsistency of the formal

123
84 Hya Mashkov, Portrait of a Boy in an Embroidered Shirt, 1909
5

85 Robert Falk, Portrait of the Tartar journalist Midhad Refatov, 191


composition. It is a painting midway between the academic per-
spective representation of space and a decorative surface patterning
which is of this artist's work (Portrait of a Boy in an
a characteristic
III. 84 Embroidered Apart from the debt to the French Fauve school,
Shirt).

the work of Mashkov is related to that of the German Expressionists,


Kirchner, Pechstein and Heckel, who all contributed to the second
'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition of 1912. There is the same violence
and feverish colour, although the work of the Russian is less jazzy in
form and subject and his rhythm is rounded and enclosed, whereas
that of the German tends to the angular.
Portraits and still-life subjects were the themes typical of these four
Moscow painters. They used simple, insignificant objects as a means
of avoiding simply wanted
literary anecdotal elements. In fact, they
'pretexts' for abstract experiment in formal composition and colour.
It was colour above all which concerned Mashkov, and also Piotr

///. 86 Konchalovsky in his first works. His Portrait of Georgy Yakulov of


1910 again reveals the close connection between his work and that of
work, however, the influence of Cezanne became
Matisse. In his later
paramount, and the preoccupation with colour was exchanged for
a typically Cezannist monochrome palette, and a loose, hatching
stroke.
Robert Falk was the most serious and sensitive artist of these four
painters. Hiswork was always more indebted to Cezanne than to
Matisse. His subjects were likewise portraits (e.g. Portrait of Mi dh ad
III. 85 Refatov) and still-lifes. There is, however, a Jewish melancholy and
intensity which differentiates his work from the rather superficial and
immature work of his 'Knave of Diamonds' colleagues. The sensitive
manipulation of planes of colour in dry, quiet tones and insistent
rhythm of brushstrokes removes his work from the rather provincial
level of the group as a whole. Falk was the only one among them who
later evolved a personal idiom built on this Cezannist grounding. He,
in company with Konchalovsky and Kuprin, another early member
of his group, were influential in training successive generations of
Soviet painters.
The works which Larionov sent to the first 'Knave of Diamonds'
exhibition were those which he had done during his stay with the
Burliuks - many of which he had already sent to the third 'Golden
Fleece' exhibition - and a number of others of the past year, as well

126
as earlier works of 1906 and 1907. The Soldiers, second version, was ///. 61
one of the most recent works ineluded. This painting eontains a
number of elements which were developed by Larionov in the follow-
ing year: the primitive smooth-backed animal chalked on the fence,
graffiti-style; the crude-featured figures in positions depicted with a
complete disregard for, or rather conscious sinning against, the rules
of academic perspective. The strong horizontal movement and the
abrupt cutting off of the work at the top of the fence, eliminating
the sky, has been continued from works of the year before such as
Walk in a Provincial Town, which he also included in this exhibition.
Goncharova sent works which were distinctly nearer to those of
Larionov's Primitivist style. In Fishing the French influence is still ///. 88
noticeable, but it has become far more digested and free than in the
works of the previous year. The scene is now set in Russia and the
themes are taken from Russian peasant agricultural life - such as
Washing the Linen (in the Russian Museum, Leningrad). Four of her

86
Pyotr Konchalovsky,
Portrait of
Georgy Yakulov,
1910
1

religious works were included. Gone are the whites and sickly pinks of
Maurice Denis which had coloured the works of the previous year -
77/. 87 such as Picking Apples, which she had sent to the last 'Golden Fleece'
exhibition. With her confident emancipation from the parent school,
Goncharova launches into a blazoned world of colour.
A newcomer to this exhibition was Kasimir Malevich. Malevich
was not yet an intimate of the Moscow group, although he had arrived
in the city in 1905. He had not contributed to any of the small group
exhibitions and had shown his work only at the big public Salons.
To this exhibition he sent works executed in a Bonnard/Vuillard
style. Though he attracted little notice at this exhibition it is important

as his first contact with Larionov and Goncharova. These three figures

were to become the leading personalities during the next four years
after which, when Larionov and Goncharova had departed with
Diaghilev, Malevich was to take over sole leadership.
It was at the 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition that the short period

of co-operative activity between the Burliuk brothers and Larionov


and Goncharova culminated and came to an end. David Burliuk sent
to the exhibition works similar to those which he had contributed to
the earlier group exhibitions, organized together with Larionov and
Goncharova. These were chiefly scenes from the provincial country-
side, and executed in a deliberately child-like style. After this period,

in common with others of his group, he devoted his energies chiefly


to the development of this style in poetry.

87 Natalia Goncharova, Peasants Picking Apples, 191

88 Natalia Goncharova, Fishing, 19 10


89 Natalia Goncharova, The Evangelists, 1910-11

Vladimir Burliuk was a more talented painter than his brother


David and was much esteemed by Kandinsky, who later became a
close friend of the brothers and took a flat next door to theirs when
he returned to Moscow at the outbreak of war. He became the god-
father to David Burliuk's second son. A poet in this Futurist circle,
Benedict Livshits, recalls in his account of this period 11 how he first

met David Burliuk in Kiev, where he was staying with Alexandra


Exter. It was at Christmas-time in 191 1. A formidable figure dressed
in a frock-coat and magnificent silk waistcoat, and flaunting a
lorgnette, descended on the flat of his friend Alexandra Exter, and
then completely disarmed the young man by turning to him abruptly

129
and saying: 'Sonny, won't you come and spend Christmas with us
at Chernianka?' There follows a description of the feverish train
journey from Kiev to the Burliuks' estate on the Black Sea, of Burliuk
scribbling verses while walking up and down the carriage quoting
Baudelaire, Verlaine and Mallarme to Livshits, who in his turn
introduced Burliuk to his favourite Rimbaud. The description gives
one a sudden insight into the tempo of this period of frantic activity
in painting, writing and talking. The painting which Vladimir
///. 77 Burliuk did of the poet during this time is one of the few surviving
works by this artist who was killed so prematurely six years later.
It distressed Livshits when he saw how Vladimir would take one

of his newly finished canvases and dragging it through mud-


puddles would even throw loose mud on the canvas. To his surprise
David Burliuk remained undisturbed and said in consolation:
. . .

'Vladimir will relay the thick elements of clay and sand with a
thick coat of paint and his landscape will become one with the
earth of Hilea.' 12

90 Mikhail Larionov, Rayonnist Landscape, 1912


1

CHAPTER II V I

1912-14

In- a very acrimonious spirit, Larionov and Goncharova formally

dissociated themselves from the 'Knave of Diamonds' group at the


public discussion on 'Contemporary Art' organized by David Burliuk
in Moscow in February 1912. It was at this discussion that Larionov
accused Burliuk of being a 'decadent Munich follower' and the
Cezannists of conservatism and eclecticism. This accusation presum-
ably relates to Burliuk's intimate co-operation with Kandinsky at this
time, as a sort of Moscow and Munich go-between. However,
although itwas David Burliuk who arranged for the 'Blaue Reiter'
group to send works to the 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibitions of 191

91 Mikhail Larionov, Sea Beach, 1913-14


1

and 191 2, there is specific evidence of Kandinsky's contact and interest


in Goncharova's and Larionov's doings up to the spring of 191 1 from a
letter of his to Goncharova dated March 191 1 'About his published
:

works [Larionov] only told me incidentally, but I should so much


like to know what it is. . And what the group "Donkey's Tail"
. .

consists of' 1
By 19 12, however, Larionov's attitude to 'Munich
decadence' seems to have become as scornful as to the 'lackies of
Paris' - the Cezannists - and he did not repay Kandinsky's compliment
of inviting him to exhibit at the first 'Blaue Reiter' by an invitation
to join in the 'Donkey's Tail' group which held their first exhibition
in Moscow in March 19 12, shortly after the above discussion. The

92 Mikhail Larionov, Glass, 191


93 Mikhail Larionov, Blue Rayonnism, 1912

'Donkey's Tail' 2 group was intended as the first conscious breakaway


from Europe, and the assertion of an independent Russian school.
The exhibition of the group opened on 1 1 March 1912 m Moscow.
Apart from the small December exhibition of the 'Union of Youth'
was the first exhibition to unite the 'big four' -
the previous year, this
Larionov, Goncharova, Malevich and Tatlin. Larionov, Goncharova
and Tatlin each contributed fifty works and Malevich twenty-three.
The other artists who exhibited were all minor members of the
Moscow avant-garde with the exception of Chagall, who sent one

133
work from Paris, entitled Death. It also included Niko Pirosmanishvili
(1862-19 1 8) the Georgian self-taught sign painter who was taken up
by Larionov and other members of his Futurist circle at this time.
The exhibition was greeted with howls of fury and derision by the
press and the public. As usual with Larionov's enterprises a scandal
was involved: the censor decided that to hang Goncharova's religious
///. 89 works such as The Evangelists at an exhibition entitled the 'Donkey's
Tail' was blasphemous. And so these paintings were confiscated.
The works Larionov showed were largely soldier themes, develop-
ing the series of 1908-10 shown at the 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition,
executed in the 'Infantile-Primitive' style. Some of these works were
intentionally indecent and blasphemous, but they appear to have been
too sophisticated to trouble the censor.
Goncharova included a number of her new Primitivist works such
Ills 87, 55 as Peasants Picking Apples and Hay cutting based on agricultural themes,
and a series of works described in the catalogue as 'in Chinese,
Byzantine and Futurist styles, in the style of Russian embroidery,
woodcuts, and traditional tray-decoration'.
It is interesting to compare the 'Donkey's Tail' with the simultaneous

'Blaue Reiter' exhibition in Munich. Not only were there a number of


common contributors, but also a common interest in folk-art and
children's art - to the extent that the 'Blaue Reiter' group included
seven nineteenth-century Russian peasant woodcuts in their exhibition.
Both Kandinsky and Malevich derive their colour combinations from
Russian folk-art, in particular from such woodcuts. Indeed, Malevich
even went so far as to do a number of lithographs in strict imitation
of these Russian 'lubki'. Larionov's fondness for the esoteric was a
link between him and the German Expressionists. Likewise, in
///. 75 Larionov's Portrait of Vladimir Burliuk and Goncharova's Wrestlers,
one can see a reflection of the German artists.
Malevich's work of this time is less directly connected with the
Munich School; but reflects much more the influence of Matisse and
the Fauves and, above all, Goncharova. In his agricultural peasant
themes, his colour and pictorial construction, Malevich's work of this
time can be directly related to that of Goncharova. He himself said
of their co-operation 'Goncharova and I worked more on the peasant
:

level. Every work of ours had a content which, although expressed in


primitive form, revealed a social concern. This was the basic difference

134
1

between us and the 'Knave of Diamonds' group which was working


3
in the line of Cezanne/
Tatlin's contribution to the 'Donkey's Tail' was chiefly a large
number of costume designs for Emperor Maximilian. These were not, ///. N'
as might be supposed, for a commissioned project; it was the custom
in Russia at this time for an artist to devise the sets and costumes for
perhaps an entire production and then present them like an architect's
model, in scale, to some producer whom he hoped would buy them
for his play. Apart from these costumes Tatlin exhibited mainly
drawings and studies of 1909-11 done on his sailor's wanderings in /// 5 94-97
Turkey, Greece or Libya and during his spasmodic attendance at the
Moscow College. This early work of Tatlin, done when he had
scarcely finished his school training, reflects an interest in Van Gogh,
Cezanne, and also in the Primitivist work by Larionov, who closely
befriended him at this time.

Larionov organized a second exhibition called


In the following year
'The Target'. This was the occasion of the formal launching of

94 Vladimir Tatlin, Fishmonger, 191


1 :

95 Vladimir Tatlin, Bouquet, 191

77/. 92 Rayonnism. The first Rayonnist work Glass was exhibited at a one-
day exhibition in the 'Society of Free Esthetics' in 191 1 according to ;

the critic, Nikolai Khardzhev, a work in this style was also included
at the 'Union of Youth' exhibition in December 191 1 It was however .

at this exhibition in 1 9 1 3 that Larionov issued his Rayonnist manifesto


,

We declare: the genius of our days to be: trousers, jackets, shoes,


tramways, buses, aeroplanes, railways, magnificent ships - what
an enchantment - what a great epoch unrivalled in world history.

96 Vladimir Tatlin,
Vendor of Sailors' Contracts,
1910
97 Vladimir Tatlin, The Sailor, 1911-12. Probably a self-portrait

We deny that individuality has any value in a work of art. One


should only call attention to a work of art and look at it according
to the means and laws by which it was created.
Hail beautiful Orient! We unite ourselves with contemporary
Oriental artists for communal work.
Hail nationalism - ! we go hand in hand with house-painters.

137
Hail to our rayonnist style of painting independent of real forms,
existingand developing according to the laws of painting.
(Rayonnism is a synthesis of Cubism, Futurism and Orphism.)
We declare that copies never existed and recommend painting
from works of the past. We declare that painting is not limited by
time.
We are against the West, vulgarizing our Oriental forms, and
rendering everything valueless. We demand technical mastery. We
are against artistic societies which lead to stagnation. We do 'not
demand attention from the public, but ask it not to demand
attention from us.

98 Natalia Goncharova, Cats, 1911-12


99 Mikhail Larionov,
Portrait of Vladimir Tatlin, 1913-14

The of Rayonnist painting promoted by us is concerned


style
with spatialforms which are obtained through the crossing of
reflected rays from various objects, and forms which are singled
out by the artist.

The ray is conventionally represented on the surface by a line of


colour. The essence of painting is indicated in this - combination of

100 Natalia Goncharova,


The Green and Yellow Forest,
1912
ioi Natalia Goncharova, The Machine's Engine, 1913

102 Natalia Goncharova, Portrait of Larionov, 19 13

colour, its saturation, the relationships of coloured masses, the


intensity of surface working. The painting is revealed as a skimmed
impression [Mayakovsky referred, in his public explanations of
contemporary painting, to 'Rayonnism' as a 'Cubist' interpretation
of 'Impressionism'], it is perceived out of time and in space - it gives
rise to a sensation of what one may call, the 'fourth dimension', that

is the length, width and thickness of the colour layers. These are

the sole symbols of perception which emerge from this painting


which is of another order. In this way painting parallels music
while remaining itself. Here begins a way of painting which may be
pursued only following the specific laws of colour and its application
to canvas.
From here begins the creation of new forms, whose meaning
and expression depend entirely on the degree of saturation of a
colour-tone and the position in which it is placed in relation to other
tones. This naturally encompasses all existing styles and forms of

140
3

the art of the past, as they, like


life, are simply points of departure

for a Rayonnist perception and construction of a picture.


From here begins the true freeing of art; a life which proceeds
only according to the laws of painting as an independent entity,
painting with its own forms, colour and timbre. 4

Larionov's Rayonnist works date from the end of 191 1 up till 1914,

shortly after which date he and Goncharova left Russia to join


Diaghilev as designers for the ballet. Rayonnism itself was a short-
lived movement, and only one of the many styles in which Larionov
and Goncharova were working at this period. Its importance as a
pioneer 'abstract' school of painting lies not so much in these in-
conclusive works, although some of them are undoubtedly 'abstract',
theory which lay
as in the behind them and which rationalized the
contemporary ideas in Russia, carrying to their logical conclusion
Fauvism, Cubism and the indigenous Russian Decorative-Primitive
movement: it was based on this rationalization that Malevich went
on to found Suprematism, the first systematic school of abstract
painting in the modern movement.
103 Natalia Goncharova, The Cyclist, 191 2-1
Larionov's Rayonnist works, however, differ profoundly from
Ills 90-g3 those by Goncharova. His are theoretical experiments, an objective
analysis worked in muted colours. Hers are closer, both in subject
and feeling, to the Italian Futurists. While Larionov's subjects are
mostly still-life or portraits, Goncharova uses such titles as: The
Ills 101, 103 Cyclist, The Factory, The Electrical Ornament or The Machine's Engine.
105 Kasimir Malevich,
Flower Girl, 1904-5

Her colour is and yellows predominate. The


brilliant: blues, blacks
sensations of speed and machine animation are her concern, rather
than the objective analysis of the abstract qualities of colour and line
which Larionov proposed in his manifesto of 191 3.
Malevich first came in contact with Larionov's group when he
exhibited three works at the 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition of 1910.
It was the beginning of a dramatic association.

Malevich was born near Kiev in 1878. He came of humble Polish-


Russian stock. His father was a foreman in a sugar factory in Kiev; his
mother, a simple affectionate woman, probably illiterate, was a close
and constant companion to her son; she lived with Malevich until
she died in 1929 at the age of ninety-six. Malevich received little
education as a boy, but through his extraordinary perseverence and
remarkable intuitive intelligence he gained a wide background of
knowledge. Besides being an avid reader, he worked with great speed
and concentration, in a typically Russian fashion, ruthlessly pursuing
an idea to its logical conclusion. His many writings, which have an
almost patriarchal tone, do, however, bear the signs of his unsystematic
education in their confused thought and language. His simple back-
ground was probably an additional barrier between Malevich and
Kandinsky, a man of sophistication and cosmopolitan upbringing;
but although in life these artists made no contact, in ideas they have
much in common and are both fundamentally related to the Symbolist
movement.
Malevich was a brilliant speaker and a man of great charm and
humour. Although reserved about himself and his personal feelings,

143

104 Kasimir Malevich, The Bather, 1909-10


1

io6
Kasimir Malevich,
Woman with Buckets
and a Child,
1910-11

107
Kasimir Malevich,
Taking in the
Harvest, 191
he was vociferous in the cause of art, both in public discussions and in
private pamphlets and manifestoes.
When he was nineteen Malevich entered the Kiev School of Art.
In 1900 he leftand began working on his own. 'Impressionist' is how
these earlyworks were described in Russia, but this is the manner ot
execution rather than the principle of the works, for Malevich from
the outset was not concerned with nature or analyzing his visual
impressions, but with man and his relation to the cosmos.
He came to Moscow in 1905 when he was twenty-seven. His
arrival coincided with the outbreak of the December Revolution in
which, like many
artists, he took a lively interest and was even

responsible for distributing illegal literature. Malevich never entered


the Moscow College, but worked in Roerburg's studio, considered
the most avant-garde of its kind; he remained here until 191 o. It was
through Roerburg that Malevich was brought to the notice of
Larionov. Malevich's works of 1905-8 were executed in a highly
rhythmic brushstroke; in construction they were based on the work
of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Bonnard, Vuillard and Derain,
which he studied avidly in periodicals and the Shchukin and Morosov
collections.
In such a work as The Flower Girl of 1904-5, which he exhibited at ///. 103
the 'Knave of Diamonds' exhibition of 19 10, one can already
first

discern a master's hand. From Bonnard he has borrowed a double


plane, simply divided, using a prominent foreground figure seen
against a plunging perspective. The immediacy of this figure is further
emphasized by the strong horizontal division of the painting, which
cuts the background scene into a separate entity - it is significant that
this background scene is executed in a light, typically Impressionist

brushstroke, while the figure of the flowergirl is delineated in a close


even stroke: the contrast between the manner of execution is repeated
in the difference between the Parisian figures and buildings of the
background, and the Russian model for the flowergirl, although,
again typically, she not treated as an individual. For Malevich's
is

figurative work throughout with human figures, but only as


deals
symbols of mankind. An emphasis on the flat nature of the canvas is
expressed in the policeman-gesture of the flowergirl's outstretched
arm aligned with the shoulder-blade, which gives the impression of
the girl having been pushed up flat against the canvas surface. This

145
ironing of the figure against the surface of the painting is an aspect of
that elimination of three-dimensional perspective which Malevich
continued to develop up to his Cubo-Futurist period.
Malevich's first independent works date from 1908. These were
large gouache paintings on peasant rural themes - themes largely
derived from Larionov and Goncharova's 'Agricultural' series which
they had begun exhibiting at the third 'Golden Fleece' exhibition of
Ills 110, 112 1909, and many of his titles such Church and The Wood-
as Peasants in
cutter are identical with theirs. In pictorial construction and manner
of execution these works were particularly inspired by the Matisses
which Shchukin was acquiring at this time: Game of Bowls of 1908;
Nymph and Satyr of 1909, and the famous panels Dance and Music of
77/. 104 1910. For example, Malevich's work The Bather is obviously related
to these works. This 'Peasant' series of gouaches, five of which he
contributed to the second 'Union of Youth' exhibition of spring 191 1,
established Malevich in Larionov's group. This trio, Malevich,
Larionov and Goncharova, formed the spearhead of Larionov's all-
Russian group exhibitions, the 'Donkey's Tail' of March 1912 and
'The Target' of March 191 3.
The twenty-three works which Malevich contributed to the
'Donkey's Tail' included a number of the 'Peasant' gouache series of
77/. 108 1909-10 - such as Man with a Sack and Chiropodist in the Bathroom.
The latter is particularly interesting as an indication of his method of
III. log work, for it is clearly based on Cezanne's The Card Players. This was
a favourite work of Malevich's and one of which he always kept a
reproduction on his wall, although he had probably never seen the
original.
In Chiropodist in the Bathroom, Malevich has taken Cezanne's
painting as a model of pictorial construction, his only variation being
a raising of the viewpoint. In Malevich's painting his three figures
have been arbitrarily fitted into this borrowed pattern. Malevich's
literal modelling on Cezanne is again revealed in an unfinished work

begun by blocking in the formal skeleton of the Mont Sainte-Victoire.


This preliminary landscape sketch - on the reverse of another painting,
III. 1 16 Head of a Peasant Girl - has lightly traced on top of it a dissection in
cubes, spheres and cylinders according to Cezanne's famous instruc-
tions, although no attempt has been made to refer the method, as
originally intended, to nature.

146
io8 Kasimir Malevich, Chiropodist in the Bathroom, 1908-9

In his gouaches of 1909-10 Malevich has used a loose rough


stroke. The massive figures drawn in a sweeping black or blue line,
with enormous hands and feet, are treated as elements of a dyna-
mic pattern. It is an interesting detail that in Washing the Floor the
figure facing the spectator has two left feet, a device which is re-
peated in The Bather of the same year, emphasizing the solid and ///. 104
monumental quality of these figures. However, this monumen-
tally is, one feels, only asserted in order to be subdued. The sub-
jection of all that appears most unyielding and immovable to a
fluid rhythm is a remarkable feature of Malevich's works from this
time onwards: in this last-mentioned work, the burdened attitude

109 Paul Cezanne.


The Card Players,
1890-2
and expression of the figures reiterates this sensation of submission
to an implacable cosmic rhythm which was to reach its culmination
77/. 157 in The Ktiife-Grinder of 191 2.
Another characteristic already present in these gouache works,
and indicative of the artist's future development, is his shortening of
///. 108 perspective. In Chiropodist in the Bathroom the eye is brought up so
short by the blank wall that the massive figures seem violently com-
77/. 104 pressed within the frame. In The Bather and Washing the Floor all
pictorial elements except for the figures have been reduced to a brief
indication and the figures themselves to a stylized pattern, vehicles of
a dynamic rhythm.
77/. no Peasants in Church of 1909-10 goes one step further. The cleanly
interwoven rhythms of the previous gouache series have become a
static fused mass of repeated gesture and expression. Three-dimensional

space has been almost entirely crowded out. The figures in this huddled
group of scarfed peasant women - reminiscent of the 'crowd-scenes'
in Byzantine icons - have lost any separate identity of form, face or
gesture. Only a cylindrical pattern of shapes emerges, whose solidity
is emphasized here and there by a brilliantly contrasted colour

highlighting. From gouache, Malevich has reverted to oil, and the


rhythm of his brushstroke has become closer and covers the canvas
with an even insistent rhythm, typical of all his later work. The
scrubby outline of the Peasants in Church has been replaced in Woman
III. 106 with Buckets and a Child by a tiny dabbed brushstroke and the figures
are cleanly and delicately delineated. This composition, although not
exhibited at the 'Donkey's Tail' exhibition, is a direct continuation of
Peasants in Church. Here the pointed foreheads and heavy generalized
features have become more emphasized, and the fused mass of
people are reproductions on two different scales of virtually the same
figure. The splayed hands and feet flatten the figures against the
surface of the canvas, while the violent curved line and dynamic
movement in the background further isolate the two foreground
figures, who remain static. The Carpenter (first exhibited at the 'Union
of Youth' exhibition of December 191 2) and the two studies entitled
Peasant Head (exhibited at the 'Donkey's Tail' and the 'Blaue Reiter'
exhibition of 19 12) are comparable works. They mark the next step
in Malevich's development from the Decorative-Primitive period
towards Cubo-Futurism.

148
no Kasimir Malevich, Peasants in Church, 1910-11

The Carpenter is directly based on the earlier 'Peasant' work, The


Little Country House of 1909-10 (both of these paintings are in the
Russian Museum, Leningrad). Malevich has here abstracted the colour
and forms to create a highly organized, geometrical whole. The
modelled colouring of the pink-yellow fore- and background, and
the blue, white and black of the figure have become smoothed in
surface, full and even in tone. Light and shade have been dismissed;
the naturalistic colouring of the face and hands has been replaced by a
lacquer-red. The various elements in the paintings, such as the man's
clothes, have been formalized to geometrical patterns created by the
juxtaposition of strongly contrasting tones. The background per-
spective has been foreshortened and its elements marshalled in a
geometrical order on a dynamic cross-pattern.

149
///. Ill Haymaking of 191 1 continues this geometricization of the figure
and relates it to the background. The heads, torsos and haystacks
have been formalized to a broad spade-shape, and further abstracted
by their division into brilliantly contrasting colour-blocks. A centrally
placed foreground figure runs almost the length and breadth of the
picture, dominating the scene; the illusion of a deep perspective
finishing at a high horizon is given by the progressively diminishing
scale of the figures in the background. This sense of distance is
furthered by the criss-crossed ground of broad stripes running against
each other diagonally and horizontally - almost like fields seen from
the air, with this colossal superman suspended above the receding
world of nature.
The touches of naturalism in the sky-line of Haymaking have been
III. 107 completely eliminated in Taking in the Harvest also of 191 1. This was
Malevich's most radical work at the 'Donkey's Tail' exhibition. Here
the whole canvas has been organized in a sustained Cubo-dynamic

in
Kasimir Malevich,
Haymaking,
1911
1 2 1

rhythm. The brilliant colour of the earlier primitive 'Peasant' works


has now gained an additional metallic quality, introduced by the
mechanical rhythm of the work, the tubular forms and engaged
positions of the stylized figures.
The Woodcutter of 1911 is Malevich's first mature Cubo-Futurist ///. 112
work. It was first exhibited in Moscow in December 191 2 at the
otherwise insignificant exhibition 'Contemporary Painting', and then
almost immediately afterwards at the Petersburg 'Union of Youth'
exhibition. Apart from The Woodcutter, the pictures which Malcvich
exhibited in Moscow were far more important and radical than those
he sent to Petersburg. There were only five in all, but they summed up
Malevich's development of Cubo-Futurism: Woman with Buckets and Ills 106, 1

a Child, Head of a Peasant, Haymaking, Taking in the Harvest, and //;, 107,
The Woodcutter. 1 1

The Woodcutter has pursued this particular method to a logical


conclusion. The figure has become merged with the background in a

1 12
Kasimir Malevich,
The Woodcutter,
191
H3
Kasimir Malevich,
Woman with Buckets.
Dynamic arrangement,
1912

114
Kasimir Malevich,
Morning in the
Country after the
Rain, 1912-13
1

115 The embroidered end of a towel from North Dvinsk province of Russia.
The motif is known as 'Cavaliers and Ladies'. The influence of folk-art traditions
on Malevich's work of this period was very strong, both directly derived from
such embroidery, or the peasant lubok, or more indirectly through
Goncharova's work of 1909-1

series of dynamically articulated cylindrical forms. In this all-over


unity which has emerged, the three-dimensional perspective has been
replaced by colour-contrast to indicate the solidity of form. The
figure of the woodcutter bows to the general rhythm, and with his
uplifted arms grasping the axe is locked in tense immobility. The
movement of the crowded piston-like logs is likewise arrested in a
series of collisions. It is a timeless, spaceless situation isolated from the
natural world. One small illogicality interrupts the ruthlessly de-
humanized idea - the quietly realistic slipper on the woodcutter's left

foot, perhaps expressing the artist's 'Alogist' theory. 5


During 1912 and 1913 Malevich continued to work in this Cubo-
Futurist style. The most important of these compositions were
exhibited beside Larionov and Goncharova's Rayonnist works at
'The Target' exhibition of March 191 3, and at the 'Union of Youth'
exhibition of November 191 3. Gradually from a mechanized figure,
such as The Woodcutter, a mechanical man, such as The Knife-Grinder, ///. i 57
emerges; from a vision of the natural world subordinated to a
mechanical rhythm - like Morning in the Country after the Rain - a III. 114
world created by a dynamic mechanical force is reached in Woman III. 113
with Buckets. Malevich's Portrait of Ivan Khun - sometimes called

153
3 _
,

n6 Kasimir Malevich, Head of a Peasant Girl, 191

Kliunkov, a close follower of Malevich - of 191 1 represents this in a


III. 116 literalmechanization of man's brain: Head of a Peasant Girl of 191 3,
an almost abs.tract composition, is built up in cylindrical elements.
In this work, Malevich has surpassed both the analytical Cubists and
Leger in his logical approach towards abstract picture-construction.
Malevich's Cubo-Futurist works are in a number of ways analogous
to Leger's work of the same period: Nus dans un paysage (1909-11),
Les Fumeurs (191 1) and La Femme en Bleu (1912). Malevich certainly

saw the latter work when it was exhibited in Moscow in 1912, and

154
Leger's work as a whole was familiar to him through his intensive
reading of periodicals. UEscalier of 19 14 probably conies closest to
Malevich's ideas, and has a number of characteristics in common
with The Knife-Grinder of 19 12, but as the dates indicate, Malevich ///. 157
had reached this point two years before Leger. Whether there is any
ground for thinking that Leger was influenced by Malevich has yet
to be ascertained. If Malevich and Leger share a formal construction
in the dynamic cubic division of pictorial elements in their canvases,
their colour, so important in Malevich's work, is quite unrelated. Up
to his La Femme en Bleu, Leger's colour echoes the monochrome
palette of the Cubists. In this and subsequent works he uses the primary
colours and a brilliant green, with white highlighting to express a
machine-like quality. His manner of execution also differs profoundly
from Malevich at this date - 1909-14 - in his light, spare brush work,
and typically French elegance. Malevich has no elegance: his full,
intense colour is applied in a dense, even rhythm throughout the
canvas surface.
Towards the end of 191 3 the influence of the Synthetic-Cubist
works by Picasso and Braque begins to be reflected in Malevich's
work, leading to a radical change of colour and the abandonment of
Cubo-Futurism. In the manner of Picasso and Braque, small realistic
details arc inserted, such as the man in the bowler hat in Lady on a Tram
of 1913 and the stars on The Guardsman's cap. By 1914 these effects ///. 117
have grown to Surrealist proportions. Enormous letters, making scraps
of words as in An Englishman in Moscow, are accompanied by a ///. 121
completely inconsequential series of objects: a tiny Russian church
biting into an enormous fish which in its turn half obscures the top-
hatted figure of the Englishman - with a motto hanging like an
epaulette at his shoulder, reading 'Riding Club' the exquisitely careful
;

delineation of the lit candle in a bedroom candle-holder suspended in


mid-air, the ladder tipping workmanlike sabre
perilously, the
embracing the candle, the ladder, the fish blowing streams of fire -
everything reversed, mocked at a premature piece of Dada one might
:

say. Actually, however, this 'Non-sense realism' was a pictorial


interpretation of the contemporary ideas in poetry put forward by
Khlebnikov and Kruchenikh under this term. It has been mentioned
earlier how closely the Futurist movements in poetry and painting
were related in Russia at this time.

155
3

H7 Kasimir Malevich,
The Guardsman 191 2-1
,

AAAAll

118 Kasimir Malevich,


ojM. V. Matiushin,
Portrait
I9I3
119 Kasimir Malevich,
Woman beside an
Advertisement Pillar,
1914

120 Pablo Picasso,


Musical Instruments,
1912-13

121 Kasimir Malevich,


An Englishman in Moscow,
1914
1

Ills 122-25 To Victory over the Sun, Kruchenikh's Futurist opera, Malevich
traces the beginning of Suprematism. One of the backcloths designed
by Malevich was in fact abstract a white and black square. The other
:

sets for this production were very close in character to the Cubist
///. 1 7 works of 19 1 3-14. As in The Guardsman one can recognize the future
Suprematist element in the trapeze form on the right-hand side, so
in the designs for Victory over the Sun various geometrical elements
were prominently incorporated.
i

hi

122-25 Kasimir Malevich, three backcloth and twelve costume designs for
Victory over the Sun. It was to this production that Malevich ascribed the birth of
Suprematism. As is demonstrated here, one of the backcloths was an entirely
geometrical abstract design. Victory over the Sun was first produced in the Luna
Park Theatre in Petersburg in December 1913

159
23

126 Kasimir Malevich, Black Square, c. 19 13 127 Kasimir Malevich, Black Circle, c. 191

It is probable that Malevich began working out his Suprematist

77/. 126 system in 191 3 as he claimed. At what point the actual Black Square
painting was executed it is difficult to ascertain precisely. The fact that
itwas not exhibited until late 191 5 would in no way indicate that
it from that year. As we have seen, Malevich did not always, or
dates
even usually, exhibit his most revolutionary works immediately. His
Cubo-Futurist works were almost all exhibited a year, if not two,
after their completion.
However, if Malevich, as he frequently claimed in his writings,
began Suprematist works in 191 3, then these Dada or 'Non-sense
his
Realist' works and some of the more serious collage works - such as
77/. ug Woman beside an Advertisement Pillar - were done more or less

simultaneously. These were the paintings which he sent to the 'Knave


of Diamonds' exhibition - to which he again contributed from 191
onwards as a protest after quarrelling with Larionov; the last 'Union
of Youth' exhibition of November 1913; the Moscow exhibition
'Contemporary Painting' of 191 3 and finally 'Tramway V, the first
;

Futurist exhibition of painting held in Petersburg in February 191 5,

the historic occasion when all the present and future members of the
abstract painting schools of the years leading up to 1922 first came
together.

160
It was not, however, until December 191 5, at the second exhibition

of the above artists' work, '0.10', that Malevich proclaimed his


Suprematist system.
In all he showed thirty-five abstract works. None of these was
termed 'Suprematist' in thecatalogue. By wayofcxplanation Malevich
wrote in the catalogue: 'In naming some of these paintings, do not I

wish to point out what form to seek in them, but I wish to indicate
that real forms were approached in many cases as the ground for
formless painterly masses from which a painterly picture was created,
quite unrelated to nature.'
Black Square headed the list of works. It is by far the most straight- ///. 126
forward of any of the titles, other works being described as Two-
dimensional painterly masses in a state of movement - or /// a state of
tranquillity; Painterly realism of the footballer - painterly masses in two
dimensions. The fact that Black Square had a title so much simpler than
any of the other works shown at this exhibition is an indication that
it was already well known perhaps from the Victory over the Sun

production.

128 Kasimir Malevich, Black Cross, c. 191

l6l
129 Kasimir Malevich,
Black Square and Red
Square, c. 1913

130 Kasimir Malevich,


Suprematist Composition,
1914

131 Kasimir Malevich,


Suprematist Composition,
1914-15
'/"<

132
Kasimir Malevich,
House under
Construction,
1914-15
f
'
\v >-

134 Kasimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition, 1916-17

135 Kasimir Malevich, Suprematism : Yellow and Black, 1916-17

The works which these titles describe were by contrast the most
pure and simple combinations of geometrical elements. Beginning
with the black square on a white ground, the circle follows, then two ///. 127
identical squares placed symmetrically. Then red is introduced and ///. 129
the black square is pushed up to the left while a smaller red square
moves off on a diagonal axis. This dynamic axis is then seized as a

fundamental. Simple rectangular bars of red and black, then blue and
green pursue this movement. The rectangle shades offinto a trapezium III. 130
the diagonal is repeated on a double axis, then through repetition of an
element in two scales, space is reintroduced. Simple progressions
using these basic geometrical elements then ensue; at first these are
stated in black and white; then red, green and blue are again intro-
duced: the Cubo-Futurist colour scale is again present.
In about 19 16 Malevich began introducing more complex colour- III. 134
tones of brown, pink and mauve; more complex shapes appear: a
cut-out circle, tiny arrow-shapes; more complex relationships,
cutting, repeating, overlaying, shadowing, producing a third
dimension. Soft shapes, almost immaterial, fading forms are typical Ills 133, 135
of these later Suprematist works, and the 'propaganda' element is no 145

165

133 Kasimir Malevich, Snpcrematist Composition, 19 16-17


** 3tuuMtf*u4 Im>I

136 Kasimir Malevich,


Supremus No. 18, 1916-17

137 Kasimir Malevich,


Euture Planits. Homes for
Earth-dwellers ; People, c. 1924

longer present. The initial clarity and concreteness, up from


built
colour entities and enclosed forms, are now by these
contrasted
rounded looming shadows. This new mystical element is described by
Malevich as a sensation of infinity, of the new space in which there is
no human measure. As stars in the cosmos, these colour-bolts move
upon an appointed way, irrevocable, inevitable. It is not a moment of
nature held on canvas, nor an ideal world existing independently,
it is a corner of the cosmos caught on its journey through time, close

to the symbolism of Bely in its frail materiality, a bridge erected over


the subconscious, the world of chaos. 6
More and more these half-present shapes drown the brilliant flags
of colour, the 'semaphore in space' as Malevich called it. These later
Suprematist works have quite different titles such as: Suprematist
Elements of Diminution or Suprematism Destroyer of Constructive Form.
We are no longer confronted with space, but are sent into 'the infinite
whiteness' in such works as Sensation of a Mystical Wave coming from
the Earth (191 7)and Sensation of the Space of the Universe (19 16). This
painting 'of pure sensation', as Malevich himself defined Suprematism,
///. 211 culminated in the famous 'White on White' series of 1917-18. All

166
colour has been eliminated, and form in the purest, most de-humanized
shape of the square, has been reduced to the faintest pencilled outline.
Already in 191 5 Malcvich had begun experimenting in three-
dimensional idealized architectural drawings. He called these Planits
or The Contemporary Environment. With the culmination of Suprematist Ills

painting in 191 - and the Revolution - Malcvich virtually gave up


8

painting (except as illustrations to his theories on art). During the


'twenties he pursued these architectural projects in' three-dimensional Ills 138,
sculpture. From 191 8 up to the end of his life in 1935 Malcvich
devoted himself to working out his pedagogical method and to
writing treatises on the history of the modern movement and on the
nature of art. All his later painting was by way of illustration to
these theories, except for the portraits of himself, his friends and
family which he painted in the last five years of his life.
Vladimir Tatlin, the founder of Constructivism, was born in 1885.
He grew up in Kharkov and was a Ukrainian by nationality. His
father, Evgrav Tatlin, was a technical engineer by profession, and a
man of education and culture. His first wife, who was a poet, died
two years after the birth of their son Vladimir. Soon afterwards he
married again. According to Larionov, who knew him as a young boy
since he frequently came to stay at the Larionov's home in Teraspol,
Tatlin disliked his stepmother only a little more intensely than his

138, 139 Examples of Malevich's


Arkhitektonics, 1924-8
father. His father seems to have been a stern and unimaginative man
in dealing with his son, who was a reluctant scholar and in general a
recalcitrant and unco-operative boy. Perhaps Tatlin's morbid distrust
of people, and lack of self-confidence in his work, was a result of his
unhappy childhood. Vladimir was finally rendered so desperate that
he ran away from home to become a sailor at the age of eighteen. The
ship which he joined was bound for Egypt. This voyage fired his
imagination, and many of his early drawings are of seaports and
Ills 94, 96, fishermen, and throughout his life he spoke of the sea with great love.
9j He continued to earn his living spasmodically as a sailor up to 191 5,
and in the course of his travels visited Syria, Turkey and the Levant.
He returned home from his first voyage in 1904, the year his father
died, and entered the Penza School of Art, where he studied under a
capable and fairly well-known painter: Afanasiev. In 1910 he came
to Moscow and entered the Moscow College of Painting, Sculpture
and Architecture. He shared a studio with Alexander Vesnin, one of
the three brothers who were to become the leading Constructivist
architects in Russia. For a year Tatlin studied at the Moscow College,'
and then left to become a free-lance painter. He had already sent
works to the 'Union of Russian Artists' exhibitions, where most of
the students from the Moscow College exhibited, and in 191 1,
through Larionov, he made his debut with the avant-garde by con-
tributing eleven works to the second 'Union of Youth' exhibition
III. 95 of 191 1. These works included still-lifes under the influence of
Cezanne, and a number of sea-drawings. From this time on, until they
quarrelled in 191 3, Tatlin worked in close contact with Larionov and
Goncharova. Goncharova remembers him at this time as a tall, thin
young man, 'rather like a fish', with his long upper lip, upturned nose
and prominent, melancholy eyes. But if he was plain, he had great
charm, to those who were able to penetrate his shyness, and would
talk with wit and on occasion with brilliance on art or the sea.
It was probably through Goncharova that Tatlin discovered icon
painting, for Goncharova, who had long been an enthusiast of this
tradition, had access to many private collections. It was not until the
superlative exhibition of 'Ancient Russian Painting' of 191 3 held in
Moscow in honour of the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty that
any number of icons were exhibited in their cleaned condition to the
public. Goncharova still remembers the excitement caused by this

168
140 Kasimir Malevich, Dynamic Suprematism, 191

brilliant exhibition. was of lasting consequence in its influence among


It

artists. There is much of the


icon-painting tradition in Tatlin's work,
both in his use of colour and his flat, decorative, curved rhythm, as in
Composition from a Nude of 191 3. ///. 144
This ruthless resolution of everything to curved planes was pursued
into the third dimension very early by Tatlin in his theatrical designs.

169
1

141 Vladimir Tatlin, Hall in the Castle. Design for a backcloth for
Emperor Maximilian and his son Adolf, 191

Among the fifty works which he sent to the 'Donkey's Tail' exhibition
of 191 2 were thirty- four costume designs for the production of
///. 1 41 Emperor Maximilian and his son Adolf, which was staged by the 'Moscow
Literary Circle' in 191 1. Unlike Malevich, Tatlin was soon invited to
contribute to the 'World of Art' exhibitions, and to both the exhibi-
tion of 191 3 and 1 914 he sent designs and models for Glinka's opera
///. 142 Ivan Susanin. This project was not realized, although Tatlin took
immense trouble over its preparation, making three-dimensional
models of each act.

142 Vladimir Tatlin, Wood. Sketch for a backcloth for the opera Ivan
Susanin, 1913
143 Descent from the Cross. Icon of the
Northern School of Russia, 15th century.
The influence of icon-painting was very
strong in Tatlin's early development as a
painter. It was a source he later
returned to towards the end of his life

1
1

144
Vladimir Tatlin,
Composition from a Nude,
1913
The last which Tatlin contributed before he made
exhibitions to
his historicjourney to Berlin and Paris were those of the 'Union of
Youth' and 'Knave of Diamonds' of 191 3, and the second Moscow
exhibition entitled 'Contemporary Painting'. Tatlin seems not to
have been a prolific painter, unlike his contemporaries, Larionov,
Goncharova and Malevich, whose fertility was amazing. Many of the
works sent to these exhibitions were the same, or were minor drawings.
The fact that he earned his living at this time as a sailor was probably
responsible for this, but even later Tatlin worked slowly and painfully.
The most advanced work which he executed before leaving in the
77/. 1 44 autumn of 191 3 for Berlin was the Composition from a Nude, mentioned
above.
It is interesting to compare this work with the Cubo-Futurist

77/. 137 works by Malevich of much the same date. In The Knife-Grinder or
77/. 1 13 Woman with Buckets Malevich has followed Cezanne's dictum - when
he wrote to Bernard 'There are no lines, there is no modelling, there
are only contrasts; when there is richness of colour, then there is
fullness of form.' Tatlin too has modelled his work on this precept,
but his rough, unfinished edges come closer to Cezanne's own tech-
nique than the carefully defined boundaries of Malevich's forms.
Though both artists modelled themselves more on Cezanne than any
other painter, though many circumstances and influences in their
common environment unite these two artists, it would be hard to find
two more diverse. However, Tatlin can be compared with Malevich
in his attitudes to the model for the painting and in this they were both
very Russian: like Malevich, Tatlin is not concerned with the object
or person as an individual entity and both, though in such different
ways, subordinate their figures to a geometric pattern. But if Malevich's
Primitivist series of 1909-10, and his later Cubo-Futurist works,
emphasize the two-dimensional character of his medium, Tatlin is
concerned not with a new pictorial space, but ultimately with real
space. He dissects an object not in order to arrive at a truer visual
representation of the object like the Cubists, but in order to incorporate
real space created through colour and surface play. Colour and canvas
are treated as materials in their own right.
In spiteof the constant rivalry between Tatlin and Malevich -
which several times ended in physical violence - Malevich was the
only one of his Russian colleagues whom Tatlin really seems to have

172
H5 Kasimir Malevich, Yellow Quadrilateral on White, 1916-17

respected. Even though his unhappy jealousy later led Tatlin to


extremes, declaring that he could not bear to be in the same town as
Malevich, nevertheless he secretly kept in close touch with his work
and ideas. In support of this are the papers and articles which were in
Tatlin's possession when he died. Apart from those which mention
his ownwork, Tatlin had underlined in blue pencil all references to
Malevich. There is no reference to any other artist, apart from Picasso.

There are also one or two copies of essays by Malevich in this collec-
tion. Tatlin attended Malevich's funeral in Leningrad in 1935,
although he had not seen him for years previously.
Apart from Malevich, the painters whom Tatlin respected were
few. First and foremost he admired Cezanne, whom he knew from
the superb Shchukin and Morosov collections; after Cezanne,
Chistyakov, the Russian nineteenth-century painter and teacher of
the 'Wanderers' (see Chapter I), Picasso and Leger were the only
other artists whom his one-time pupils from the Vkhutein (Higher
Technical Institute, where Tatlin taught in the late 'twenties and early

173
'thirties) can remember
their teacher having spoken of with respect.
But were narrow, they were passionate. For example,
if his interests

he apparently read little, only stories by Leskov and Khlebnikov's


poetry - but these he read constantly. Khlebnikov in fact was his
Ills 146, 147 personal friend, and his last work Zan-Gesi was Tatlin's first theatrical
production of moment. He produced this play in Leningrad in 1923,
the year Khlebnikov died amidst the general famine, in terrible
circumstances and completely destitute, in Santalovo near Novgorod.
Kklebnikov's death was a great sorrow to all the avant-garde. For if
Mayakovsky, Larionov, Kamensky and David Burliuk were the
constant apologists and propagandists of the new movement in art,
Kklebnikov, a man of extraordinary gentleness and unworldly to
the point of asceticism, was considered by many of them to be the
creative genius of the movement.
Tatlin also lived in great poverty in those pre-revolutionary, pre-
war days in Moscow. He turned his hand to many odd jobs in order
to keep himself. Goncharova recalls how he once worked as a wrestler
in a circus act - but was so frail and inexpert that he put up a poor
fight and lost the hearing of his left ear as a result. In 191 3 he decided
toaccompany a group of his friends, Ukranian singers and musicians,
who were going to Berlin with the 'Russian Exhibition of Folk Art'
which opened there in the autumn of that year. Tatlin played the
accordion in the group. There an amusing story about Tatlin in
is

Berlin. Apparently he posed as a blind musician, and somehow


attracted the notice of the Kaiser - who gave him a gold watch! This
Tatlin immediately sold, and together with the money he had made
by more legitimate means at the exhibition bought himself a ticket to
Paris. This waslate in 1913. The great object of the trip was to visit
Picasso. Since he had seen the first Cubist work brought back by
Shchukin, Tatlin had dreamt of meeting Picasso who was then
working on his Cubist constructions. He was overwhelmed when he
visited Picasso and begged him to let him stay and work with him -
saying that he would clean his brushes, stretch his canvases, even
sweep his floors, if only the great painter would let him stay. But it
was to no avail. Picasso had too many demands from his own destitute
friends at this time to be able to allow for an unknown stranger,
however appealing. But he remembers him often paying visits to his
studio with his accordion during that short month. At last his money

174
146, 147 Vladimir Tatlin, Maqucttc of stage set and costume
design for Khlebnikov's play Zan-Gesi, produced by Tatlin
in the Museum of Artistic Culture in 1923

148, 149 Vladimir Tatlin.


Two stage sets for the
production of Ostrovsky's
play Comedy of the 17th
Century, Moscow Arts
Theatre, 1933
*

j,^~''"^^m^0^

*^<i \

f
h .... ,j

I 7mm g w
i 8' I.'i

X liMiHiil
p ;

v'njBHI

ETBtl
ip 150 Vladimir Tatlin,
The Bottle, c. 19 13

ran out and he returned toMoscow full of revolutionary ideas. Soon


after,he held an exhibition of his first 'constructions' in his and
Vesnin's studio in Moscow. These works are of course directly related
to Picasso's constructions but are already more radical in their
abstraction.
was during the winter of 191 3-14 that Tatlin made his first
It

'Painting Relief. This was the first step in his three-dimensional


development of the conception of form from that of an enclosed,
sculptured mass, to that of an open dynamic construction sculpturing
space. For the first time in Tatlin's constructions we find real space
introduced as a pictorial factor; for the firsttime interrelationships of
a number of different materials were examined and co-ordinated.

176
All that remains of Tatlin's early 'Painting Reliefs' and his later
'Relief Constructions' are the indifferent photographs which we
reproduce here and the compositions Old Basmannaya and Construction Ills 1 50-36 ,

Selection of Materials, both of 19 17, which are preserved in the 158, 160
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, and which I was able to study on a
recent visit to the Soviet Union. Any analysis based on reproductions
is bound to be at best inadequate and at worst false. The basic tactile

qualities of these works, and the complexity of the ideas involved make
it a particularly difficult task. For example, the construction of 19 14 III. *54
isreproduced here from the only monograph on Tatlin written by
the contemporary art critic Nikolai Punin entitled Tatlin: against
Cubism, published in 1921. The oblique angle at which this

151 Vladimir Tatlin, Painting Relief, 1913-14 152 Vladimir Tatlin, Painting Relief, 191 3-14
153 Vladimir Tatlin, Relief, 1914 154 Vladimir Tatlin, Painting Relief: Selection of materials, 1914

photograph was taken points up the dynamic thrust of the two


dominant forms. In a front-on photograph taken at the exhibition
'Tramway V, at which the work was first exhibited, the impression
is of a quiet folding and cupping of space, emphasizing the geometric

basis of the construction. 7


III. 130 The Bottle was one of Tatlin's first 'Painting Reliefs'. It is interesting
as an early stage in these experiments with real materials in real space.
The object, the bottle, is still whole; that is to say, recognizable. But
it is not an individual object but 'bottleness' analyzed: the familiar

silhouette is isolated as a shadow, incised in a flat strip of metal; the


transparency of the glass essential to a bottle - the sensation of 'looking

178
through' - is isolated, and indicated by a wire-grill pinned to the
'bottle-shape'. Glass is smooth and polished as we know by its powers
of of curved polished metal, cone-shaped, the
reflection, so a piece
typical shape of is seen through the grille and
a fat bottle reflection,
bottle-shape. The generous curve, so intimately part of a bottle, is
isolated in a piece of curved polished metal, the tail of which has
already served as the reflection; wittily the isolated curve contrasts by
physical juxtaposition with its pathetic two-dimensional silhouette.
The lesson is further emphasized by the piece of wall-paper: the
illusion of its deep perspective pattern is shown up by its curled and
torn edges. The cylinder-shape, while dominating the foreground,
embraces the other elements whose flat, two-dimensional character
is in this way emphasized. The cylinder form continues its circular

movement into 'real' space by cutting behind the other elements -


we see a tiny edge of its reverse side as it disappears. Thus, a typical
'enclosed' form is dissected part by part, attribute by attribute, the
analysis being conducted in a series of planes which contrast the idea
of 'real' and 'illusory' space.

155 Vladimir Tatlin, Board No. 1: Old Bosmannaya, 1916-17 156 Vladimir Tatlin, Relief, 1917
were introduced in Tatlin's next compositions of
'Real' materials
77/. 153 tin, wood, one of these works of 1914 we are
iron, glass, plaster. In
confronted by a simple composition in which each contributing
element has been stripped naked, as it were, and made to play against
the others in its essential qualities to contribute to an entity. A
cylindrical tin (with its label still attached, thereby emphasizing its

down-to-earth 'reality') supports a jointed piece of wood on one side


and has a thin painted piece of plywood fixed to the other. Between
the two is wedged a piece of jagged glass. Thrust up behind these is a
thin rod of wood which is capped by a square piece of iron, in its turn
screwed to the rough, slightly curved plank which forms the play-
surface of these various rough shapes and materials.
III. 154 Next, space is introduced as a pictorial factor. In Relief of 1914 the
materials used are plaster, iron, glass and pitch. Two contrasting
materials and forms strike the basic chord the opaque, dull-surfaced
:

piece of sheet-iron cut in a triangular shape, and the transparent piece


of glass cut into a concave shape, like a tumbler sliced in half. The iron
triangle skewered against the plaster ground presents a flat, downward-
running plane folding through an angle of 1 80 degrees. The central
axis runs through the triangle and supports the opened cone of glass
on its right.
Ills 138, 160 In his corner constructions of 191 5-16, Tatlin did away with the
'frame' or 'background' which had
restricted his earlier works,
limiting them in space and time. For the frame does much to isolate
a 'work of art', to hallow a selected moment, lifting it to the plane
of the 'eternal' cordoning off a perfect, private, ideal world. It was
:

this separation of the reality of art from the reality of life that Tatlin
sought to destroy. 'Real materials in real space' was his cry.
These complex constructions of 19 16 were actually attached to the
wall by a wire, but one has the impression that they would be free-
flying but for the technical lack of skill of their author. It is typical -
and the tragedy - of these artists that their ideas were far beyond their
technical capacity. That Tatlin should have devoted the last thirty
years of his life to the design of a glider - which never left the ground -
and that Malevich should have designed Planits for living in is surely
a prophecy of the rocket age. Surely this urge to master space - which
has sprung from Russia - is the rationalization of the urge expressed so
vehemently by these artists.

180
157 Kasimir Malevich, The Knife-Grinder, 1912

These corner constructions were Tatlin's most radical works. In


them he has created a new spatial form: a continually intersecting
rhythm of planes whose movements jut into, cleave, embrace, block
and skewer space.
From such abstract constructions Tatlin began to concentrate on
studies of individual materials examined in a series of basic geometric

181
5

158 Vladimir Tatlin,


Complex Corner Relief, 191

as he called it, was the basis for his


forms. This 'culture of materials',
latersystem of design which he taught first in Petrograd in the local
Inkhuk, then in Kiev, and when he turned to Moscow in 1927, where
he was appointed Director of the Ceramic Faculty in the reorganized
Vkhutemas, the Vkhutein - Higher Technical Institute. It was at this
III. 159 time that he began working on his glider which he called Letatlin -
the word is a combination of 'to fly' and Tatlin's own name. This was
made entirely of wood and was based on a close study of natural

159 Tatlin's model of his glider Letatlin in Moscow in 193;

V 7
"^^
*
T
if
<*
w w m
T T * f *

r^ TU
jr.-r EirlfiR
I

r
i6o Vladimir Tatlin, Corner Relief, 19 15

forms. Tatlin would take baby insects and grow them in boxes; when
they were fully grown he would take them out into a field and watch
them respond to the wind, unfold their wings against it and fly away.
His finished glider looks like a great insect itself, so closely has the
organic structure been interpreted. reported that new experiments
It is

are being done in Russia on the of this design of Tatlin's. Thus


basis
perhaps Tatlin's dream may come true. He may intuitively have
arrived at a solution through his 'culture of materials' and attention to
organic forms, which he called the basis of all design: 'My machine is
built on the principle of life, organic forms. Through the observation
of these forms I came to the conclusion that the most aesthetic forms
are the most economical. Work on the formation of material is art.' 8

183
5

161 Lftibov Popova, Seated Figure, c. 191


CHAPTIiK SIX

1914-17

In tracing the individual development of Malevich and Tatlin I have


anticipated events, and will therefore now return to the development
of Larionov and Goncharova's Rayonnist theory and their Futurist
works of 1913 and 1914. The Cubo-Futurist movement was now at
its height and the partnership between the poets and painters at its

closest. This partnership reached its climax in two theatrical produc-


tions put on by the 'Union of Youth' in December 1913. One was
Vladimir Mayakovsky's first play, Vladimir Mayakovsky A Tragedy, ,

which had decor by Filonov, and will be discussed later. The other
was Victory over the Sun, a Futurist opera with music by Matiushin and Ills 1 22-23
a non-sense libretto by Kruchenikh. The sets and costumes were by
Malevich. Both of these were produced in the Luna Park Theatre in
Petersburg on consecutive evenings in December 191 3. After this,
the Cubo-Futurist marriage of the poets and painters broke up and
they proceeded to develop their own discoveries and experience in
their own media.
It was during these next four years that a school of abstract painting
developed and became dominant in the Russian modern movement,
arid gave birth to a number of minor schools. It was headed by
Malevich, who was the leading personality in this war-time avant-
garde, succeeding Larionov and Goncharova, who had left the country
in 191 5 to join Diaghilev.
From the beginning of the century Russia had been a centre of a
continuous meeting and exchange of ideas from all over Europe.
With the outbreak of the First World War in 19 14 she was thrown
back on her own resources. During this period of enforced isolation,
which was to last throughout the war and ensuing Revolutionary
period until the break in the blockade in 1 92 1 Moscow and Petrograd,
,

as it was now called, became the scenes of a fierce, concentrated activity


among the artists. During this time, the pre-Revolutionary movement
of Suprematism and the post-Revolutionary school of Constructivism
emerged and became crystallized so that when movement and

185
mm H
a.y
162 Pavel Filonov,
Man and Woman, 19 12

exchange of ideas with the outside world again became possible in the
early 'twenties, these two unknown movements made a tremendous
impact on post-war Western Europe. Ideas from all over Europe met
in Germany, particularly in Berlin, and it was here that a synthesis, in
which the Russian contribution was so notable, was created. In
particular in the development of the international functional style of
architecture and design, the ideas of the Russian Suprematist and
Constructivist movements were of fundamental importance.
Yet in many ways the mood in war-time Russia, reflected in
Futurism and Non-sense Realism, resembled the German Dada
movement. There was the same feeling of uselessness, the same sense
of victimization in a hostile, senseless world. The ludicrous masks that
the Futurists wore or painted on their faces - in Victory over the Sun1

the actors wore papier-mache heads half as tall again as their bodies,
and performed on a narrow strip of stage using marionette gestures to
accompany their non-sense' words - the guy-like costume they

186
adopted, the undignified public brawls and vociferous street language
of their paintings and poetry, all these typical Russian Futurist traits
indicate a Dada-like rejection of reality, a bitter mocking of themselves
as useless misfits in a decadent society. This mood was essentially non-
creative, negative, passive. The paintings produced were works such
as Malevich's An Englishman in Moscow, or Pavel Filonov's Man and ///. 121
Woman. Filonov was closer to the analogous German movement ///. 162
than any other painter in Russia at this date, and in such a work as
People - Fishes anticipated the Surrealists. III. 163
There was extraordinarily little Expressionist painting in Russia,
unless one includes a few paintings by Larionov and Goncharova and
the work of Marc Chagall. Neither Chagall nor Filonov was typical
of the Russian artistic world of their time; in Chagall this difference
can be explained by his Jewish birth and his Paris schooling. His
interest in the 'lubok' he shares of course with Larionov and the
Moscow Primitivists, and he did actually contribute to most of
Larionov's exhibitions during the years 1911 to 1914 when he was in
Paris, thus remaining in contact with the art world of his native
country. When he returned to Russia at the outbreak of war, he was
drawn not into the circle of the Moscow Cubo-Futurists, but rather
the group of Jewish graphic artists centred in Kiev, Odessa and his
native town of Vitebsk. His work of this time does, however, reflect

163 Pavel Filonov, People Fishes, c. 191

I I
1 64 Liubov Popova, Italian Still-Life, 19 14
the current abstract schools in Russia, although always remaining
representational -
for which 'old-fashionedness' Malevich so ruth-
lessly him (see Chapter VIII). Immediately after the
dismissed
Revolution, some charming children's books, ranking among the
first typographical experiments of 'modern' design and layout, were
produced by this circle, which included El Lissitzky. ///. 167
Filonov was, however, a different case. Born in Moscow in 1883
and left an orphan in 1896, he went to live in Saint Petersburg. He had
begun drawing at an early age, but did not pass the examination for
the Academy of Art in 1902, when he first tried. However, a generous
academician taught him privately for five years. In 1908 he entered
the Academy at last, but had a disturbed career, being expelled after
two years, and then reaccepted. In 19 10 he finally left the Academy
and became a foundation-member of the 'Union of Youth' Russian

[65 Luibov Popova, Architectonic Painting, 1917


1 66
Marc Chagall,
The Gates of
the Cemetery,
1917

Futurist organization. Until 1914, Filonov was a constant if retiring


member of this Futurist movement, and contributed illustrations to
the early publications: as we have seen,he designed the backcloth,
with Shkolnik, for Mayakovsky's first play, Vladimir Mayakovsky.
Filonov saw active service during the war, although he continued to
paint during this time. After the Revolution, which Filonov greeted
with the enthusiasm of all these Futurist artists, he began to work out
his method of 'Analytical Painting'. By 1925 he had attracted a
numerous following and in that year set up a school under this name
in Petrograd which continued until 1928 when all private artistic
groups and organizations were dissolved. Filonov's painting is of
an extraordinary delicacy and sensitivity of touch. One has the

190
^*

Mm % ff*wt ^
XtA ! :

167 El Lissitzky, an illustration to a Jewish children's book, published


in Vitebsk, c. 1918

168 Marc Chagall, designs for friezes for The State Jewish Theatre in Moscow,
1919-20

V 3
69 El Lissitzky, Proun gg, c. 1924
impression of watercolour from many of his oil-paintings, so fine and
light are his brushstrokes. This fantastic technique was obtained
through a fanatical devotion to his work - he would work eighteen
hours a day on his paintings, which were minutely worked out in
detail before being started on the monumental finished scale. Filonov's
work can be related more to Paul Klce than to any other contemporary
artist. There is the same interest in children's art and in the art of the
insane; in both artists' work one's eye wanders among the various
events withm the frame; like a story or a journey,
one gradually
discovers the and meaning in pictures which have no
pattern
immediate formal unity. There is little likelihood of any actual link
between these artists, however, for Klee did not send to any of
the Russian exhibitions to which the older 'Blaue Reiter' and
'Die Briicke' members contributed; Filonov read little and never
left his country. He lived as he died, in circumstances of great

courage and heroism, during the siege of Leningrad in the Second


World War.
While in Germany the art world during the pre-war years was
dominated by the Expressionists and 'Blaue Reiter' group, in France
the Cubism of Picasso and Braque had given rise to the Orphism of
Delaunay and Kupka, the machine-painting of Marcel Duchamp and
Picabia, and the dynamic Cubist works by Leger which bear such an
affinity to Malevich's works of 1911-12; in Italy the Futurists con-
tinued their propaganda work, evolving a system to depict the
dynamic in their sculpture and painting. Russian artists were in touch
with all these movements, not only through periodicals and the
occasional work through personal
sent to their exhibitions, but also
contact. Thus Georgy Yakulov was working and
in Paris in 191 2-1 3
was particularly close to the Delaunays; Alexandra Exter was a great
friend of Leger and also went frequently to Italy to visit the Futurist
painters and Boccioni the sculptor. Nadezhda Udaltsova (1 886-1961)
and Liubov Popova (1 889-1924) had studied together at Arseneva's
Gymnasium during the years 1907 to 19 10. On leaving they took a
studio together in Moscow and in 191 2 set off for Paris, where they
studied with Le Fauconnier and Metzinger. Like so many of their
compatriots, they returned home at the outbreak of war in 1914.
Chagall, Puni, Altman, Bogoslavskaya all returned from their long
stay abroad in Paris; El Lissitzky returned from his architectural

193
5

170 Ivan Puni, Plate on Table, c. 191

school in Darmstadt, and Kandinsky together with the other Russian


members of the 'Blaue Reiter' group came home from Munich.
Thus whereas the other art centres of Western Europe were broken
up and their members dispersed upon the outbreak of war, in Russia
the event served only to reunite them. Although a number of these
artists saw - Filonov spent the years 191 5-1 8 on the
active service
Rumanian front, Yakulov was badly wounded in 191 7 - many of
them remained in Moscow or Petrograd. They were by no means
insensitive to the war and held a number of their exhibitions in aid of
the wounded; some of them, including Mayakovsky, were sent out
to the front as war artists, a tradition which was continued into the
Revolutionary period when these 'agit-prop' activities did much"' to
encourage and spread knowledge of the new regime.
The first occasion to celebrate this swelling of the ranks of the
Russian avant-garde was an exhibition held in Petrograd in February
191 5. The show was called 'The Futurist Exhibition: Tramway V.
It was financed by Ivan Puni, whose family was relatively well-off.

Puni and his wife Bogoslavskaya had rapidly made contact with
Malevich and his friends on their return from Paris in 19 14, and were
among his earliest followers in Suprematism.

194
This exhibition again brought Malevich and Tatlin together. They
had met - like so many others in this world - through Larionov's
first

exhibitions. But it was at this exhibition that they emerged for the
first time as the leaders of two distinct schools.

Tatlin's works were by far the most radical in the exhibition. He


showed 'Painting Reliefs' of I9i4and one of 191 5 six in all. (This was
: ///. 154
the first group exhibition at which Tatlin showed these works.)
Malevich showed works of 1911-14, beginning with Argentinian
Polka of 191 1, Woman in a Tram of 1912, the radical Portrait of M. V.
Matiushin of 1913 and a number of works of 1914 which he called III. 118
'Alogist' or 'Non-sense Realist'. None of these paintings by Malevich
was a new or unknown work; he sent no Suprematist work.
Among the other exhibitors there was as yet little cohesion of style,
or commitment to either Malevich's or Tatlin's influence. Puni
exhibited Cubist works, the most advanced of which was The Card
Players. This work is related both to Picasso's Cubist constructions
and to Tatlin's current work, but compared with the latter's 'Painting

171 Ivan Puni,


Suprematist Composition,
c. 1915
172
Nadezhda Udaltsova,
At the Piano,
c. 1914

Reliefs', it is far less it shows a witty ingenuity and decora-


advanced:
tive sense in the co-ordination of the scraps of clumsy iron and wood,
but there is no reflection of Tatlin's idea of baring the material itself,
or of piercing space to embrace a new dimension. In fact, the closest
parallel is with the puppet-pathos of Petrouchka or another of
Ills 240, 241 Diaghilev's ballets, Lc Pas d'Acier, which had a Constructivist set by
Georgy Yakulov.
Liubov Popova and Nadezhda Udaltsova sent Cubist works of
their Paris period to this exhibition. They are interesting in that they
give an idea of the Russian's attitude to this movement, for Cubism,
like the earlier Impressionist movement, had a very different interpre-
tation in Russia from the one it was given in France. Once again the
Russian artist was not primarily concerned with a strict interpretation
of the thing seen, but rather with a new way of constructing a

196
173
Liubov Popova,
The Traveller,
191

painting. Cubist works by Malevich, Popova and Udaltsova, who


were the chief representatives of this school in Russia, are constructed
in an almost entirely abstract fashion. They are decorative co-
ordinations of flat planes of colour with here and there a trivial detail
such as the stars on the cap of The Guardsman by Malevich, or the ///. 117
vague representation of musical manuscript sheets in Udaltsova's At
the Piano. In many of these so-called Russian Cubist works, letters arc III. 172
used to create another plane, as in Geography by Rosanova, Petto- HI- 174
kommnna by Altman, The Violin and Italian Still-Life by Popova, a Ills 175, 164
device familiar from the works of Larionov and Goncharova as well
as Braque and Picasso. But the letters in these Russian Cubist works

are used abstractly they do not exist in their own right as in Larionov's
;

works, nor are they labels torn off the object as in Picasso's work, in
order to analyze the object physically, but as in Picasso's late Cubist

197
174 Olga Rosanova,
Geography, 1914-15

works, most abstract period, they are a means of juxtaposing


at his
different levels of reality.
'Futurist' painting in Russia was again fundamentally different from
that of the Italian and French schools. Examples of so-called Russian
Futurist painting which come closest to the Italian School in their
inspiration are such works as Rosanova's Geography and Malevich's
The Knife-Grinder. I will try to point out how little in fact these two
works are related to the Italian movement and ideology.
III. 174 In Geography we are presented with a sliced view of a machine, an
intricate clock-like interior. The machine cogs, however, are still.
We are faced with the intimate workings of this relentless, inhuman
organism, but we remain uninvolved. The intoxication with speed,
the delirious abandon to a dynamic, implacable rhythm characteristic
of the Italian artists' works, is entirely absent. Far from dominating
and drowning one, the machine here stands pathetic, removed, a
foreign secret world. It thus emerges that the machine is little more
than a new pictorial element.
III. 157 Malevich's The Knife-Grinder is the outstanding example of the
few first-class paintings which belong to this 'Futurist' movement in

198
Russia. Although this is an analysis of the movement of man and
a machine, there is again no attempt to represent speed. The man and
the machine of a series of arrested gestures; they
are the representation
trace the pattern of of movements in space and time from
a scries
different points of view. Again, it is not the machine which dominates
the man, but the reverse. The machine is not idealized - it is indeed an
extremely primitive machine. Malevich is, it seems, preoccupied with
the idea of the new man which emerges from machine-power: a
super-man, man-become-machine. There is no subjective emotion
such as we find in the work of Severini; the lines of the movement arc
not continued into space as with Boccioni. It is an internal compulsion
'devouring the green world of flesh and bones', as Malevich expressed
his fundamental hostility to nature; it is an order-creating force in a
world of chaos; the moment of transformation of man dominated by
nature, to man the victor over his age-old enemy. Pressed within the

175
Liubov Popova,
The Violin,
1914
;

frame, the twisted figure is pushed flat against the surface of the canvas
the ruthless intensity of the cosmic forces which seem to be driving
the man's transformation arc given pictorial expression in the sharply
contrasted tones and shapes: the curve against the straight, the black
against white, flesh becoming steel. The man, urged into this new
substance and rhythm, is propelled into new, unknown gestures. This
machine rhythm is continued in the stairs in the background where,
like a piston, the banister is cut short.
Man - if he is physically involved at all - is the master of the
machine. It is not a case of man becoming willy-nilly displaced by
this new centre of power in the world, as with the Italian movement,
but rather of man become a demi-god, a new weapon to his hand for
'seizing the world from the hands of nature to build a new world
belonging to himself'. 2 For to the Russian artists, nature is a force
hostile to man - again in Malevich's words: 'Nature created her own
landscape ... in contrast to the form of man. The canvas of a creator-
painter is where he builds a world of his own intuition.' 3 Thus
a place

for the Russian, the machine came as a liberating force, liberating man
from the tyranny of nature and giving him the possibility to create an
entirely man-made world, of which he will finally be the master.
This vision of the machine as a liberating force was one of the reasons
for the joyful welcome given to the Bolshevik regime a few years
later - a regime which promised a new world, a new society trans-
formed by the machine, by industrialization. This romanticization of
the machine lies at the basis of all these 'isms' in art and literature which
identified themselves with the Revolution, and in particular in the
aesthetic of Constructivism.
As so often in the history of the modern movement in Russia it
was in the theatre that Russian Futurism met with its most complete
expression, Alexandra Exter's work was the pioneer force in this field.
She was commissioned in 1916 by the progressive producer Tairov,
the founder of the Moscow Kamerny Theatre in 1914, to execute
setsand costumes for a play by Annensky entitled Famira Kifared,
which was a brilliant success. During the next few years Tairov and
Exter worked out a system of 'Synthetic Theatre' 4 in which the set,
costume, actor and gesture were to be integrated to form a dynamic
III. 242 whole. These Kamerny Theatre productions were among the most
important artistic events of the war-time and early Revolutionary

200
177 Alexandra Extcr,
c. 1916
City-scape,
178 Liubov Popova, Painting Relief, 19 16

period: in them one can see the gradual development of ideas from
Futurism to Constructivism, for both movements were either worked
out in, or almost immediately adapted to, the theatre. Thus in 1920,
when the movement had barely emerged, Yakulov designed Con-
structivist sets for Tairov's production of Princess Brambilla, and in the
same year Alexander Vesnin, another founder-member of the
Constructivist movement, designed the sets for the Kamerny Theatre
production of Claudel's V
Annonce faite a Marie, and two years later
of Racine's Phedre. This association of the Futurists-become-
Constructivists with the Kamerny Theatre continued throughout the
1920s with the co-operation of the first generation of Soviet-trained
artists of the 'Obmokhu' group - the Stenberg brothers and

Medunetsky (see Chapter VII).


To return to the 'Tramway V exhibition of 191 5, the first Futurist
exhibition, as it called itself. Exter's contributions to this event
reflected her cosmopolitan background, for French Cubism, Italian
Futurism and Delaunay's 'Simultaneisme' are all reflected in works
///. 176 such as Venice. This painting is typical of the artist's feeling for brilliant

202
179
Luibov Popova,
Architectonic
Composition, 19 17

180 Ivan Kliun,


Suprematist Composition,
c. 1916
colour, richly decorative rhythm and dynamic formal construction
which were likewise characteristics of her theatrical designs.
This was only the second group exhibition in which Liubov Popova
had taken part, but already her work is to be distinguished from that
of others who participated, for its logic and unity. Indeed after Tatlin
and Malevich, Popova was the most outstanding painter of the post-
1914 abstract schools in Russia. Her work is not easy to categorize,
although one can clearly distinguish the influence of Malevich in the
Ills 161, 178 Seated Figure of c. 191 5. Likewise in her Painting Reliefs of 1916 the
influence of Tatlin's 'Culture of Materials' and introduction of 'real
space' into pictorial composition are evident. In her later Architectonic
Ills 165, 179 Paintings of 1917-18 she has evolved a personal style of abstract
composition. These later paintings are very exciting. They are often
executed on arough board, and the angular forms - in strong blues,
greens and reds - are brushed in on this crude, raw surface, leaving the
impression of a lightning-swift movement, a darting, breathless
meeting of forces, a kiss-imprint, as it were, of the driving energy
around us. Before her premature death from scarlet fever in 1924,
Popova like the other Constructivists did a good deal of work in the
theatre, designing the sets for Meyerhold's production of The
III. 243 Magnanimous Cuckold and The World Upside-Down and also in
industrial design, working with Stepanova in a textile factory. She
was one of the most enthusiastic believers in production-art. A
remark is quoted in the catalogue to her posthumous exhibition which
was arranged in 1 924 'No artistic success has given me such satisfaction
:

as the sight of a peasant or a worker buying a length of material

designed by me.' 5
Another newcomer to the artistic scene who exhibited at this

'Tramway V exhibition was Kliun, soon to become a close follower


of Malevich, an energetic personality and a prolific artist. He is of
///. 180 minor Suprematist whose work was typical of the
interest rather as a
school than for his own merit. He shows how the concern for
decoration soon deteriorated after the Revolution into standard
formulae and Suprematism lost its vitality as a creative movement in
painting, being superseded by Constructivism in its various forms.
In December 191 5, Puni and this same group of artists held a second
exhibition in Petrograd: it was entitled '0.10. The Last Futurist
Painting Exhibition'. This show, the public debut of Malevich's

204

181 Olga Rosanova, Abstract Composition, c. 19 16


3

1 82 Vassily Kandinsky, Composition 6, 191

Suprematist paintings, was the occasion of much excitement and


quarrelling among its organizers. The basic cause of trouble was the
antagonism between Malevich and Tatlin which now came to a head.
Tatlin furiously objected to the abstract painting of his colleague
which he declared to be amateur and impossible to include in an
exhibition of professional painters. Malevich on the other hand had a
numerous following by now and a firmly established place as leader
of the avant-garde - it was impossible to hold the exhibition without
him. Malevich was adamant that he would show his Suprematist
work at this exhibition, and nothing else. Feelings became so
exacerbated by this quarrel that it ended up with Tatlin and Malevich
actually fighting each other just before the exhibition was due to open.
The other artists were in despair. It must have been a terrifying sight,
the tall and weedy Tatlin with and Malevich,
his desperate jealousy,
his senior by fifteen years, a great big man
with a passionate temper
when roused. In the end, Alexandra Exter succeeded in stopping the
fight and a compromise was found to placate the two artists' pride -

206
and allow the show to open: Tatlin, Udaltsova and Popova were
to hang their works in one room, and Malevich with his Suprematist
followers in the other. To make the difference clear, Tatlin stuck up a
notice over the door to his room which read 'Exhibition of Professional
Painters'.
Tatlin showed twelve works, one Painting Relief of 19 14, five of
191 5, and five new suspended 5. This was
Corner Counter-Reliefs of 191
the time that the latter works had been exhibited.
first

Udaltsova contributed works similar to those of the previous


'Tramway V
exhibition, and Popova sent Cubist works such as The ///. 175
Violin.
Malevich dominated the show - as Tatlin had sensed he would -
with thirty-six Suprematist compositions. He also issued a manifesto:

Only when the habit of one's consciousness to see in paintings


bitsof nature, madonnas and shameless nudes has disappeared, shall
we see a pure-painting composition.
I have transformed myself into the nullity of forms and pulled

myself out of the circle of things, out of the circle-horizon in which


the artist and forms of nature are locked.

183 Vassily Kandinsky, White Background, 1920


This cursed circle is always discovering something newer and
newer, and distracts the artist from his aim and leads him towards
ruin.
And only cowardly sense and paucity of creative strength in an
artist,makes him yield to the deception, arresting his art on the
forms of nature, fearing to do away with the foundation on which
the savages and academies based their art.
To reproduce the hallowed objects and parts of nature is to
revivify a shackled thief.
Only stupid and uncreative artists protect their art with sincerity.
is needed, not sincerity.
In art truth
Things have disappeared like smoke before the new art culture.
Art is moving towards its self-appointed end of creation, to the
domination of the forms of nature.

Although this was the first exhibition at which Malevich exhibited


Suprematist paintings, the large number of works with which he
introduced this new another factor in support of his assertion
style is

Ills 126-28 that the first Square, Circle and Cross had been painted in 191 3, for it
is difficult to imagine that these works were completed in under two

years. Geometric elements in simple and then in progressively more


///. 132 complex relationships were shown: House wider Construction, which
is dated 1914 by Malevich, was shown at this exhibition; likewise

Black Trapezium and Red Square can be identified in the general view
of one wall of the exhibition. In this work the more complex trapezium
shape has made its appearance and a third spatial dimension has been
introduced by the method of progressive diminution. This work also
obviously belongs to a considerably later period in its use of non-
primary colours; the early Suprematist paintings had used only
primary colours, but in the later works Malevich tended more and
more to avoid them as his shapes became more nebulous.
After the exhibition, in a typically Futurist way, Malevich, with his
new Suprematist followers, Puni, Menkov and Kliun, held an open
discussion on Suprematism in the Tenisheva School of Decorative
Arts in Petrograd. The lecture was advertised as 'On the movements
reflected in the exhibition "0.10" and on Cubism and Futurism'.
Malevich was billed to give a live demonstration of Cubist painting,
which was reported a great success, rather more so than his explanations

208
of his new painting. 6 Perhaps it was for this lecture that Malcvich
arrived at the term 'Suprematism' to describe his new work, for the
name is already used by the critics in the reviews.
If the public and critics remained scornful and indignant at his

Suprematist painting, Malcvich began to gain a great following among


his immediate circle. A year later Suprematism was described as the
reigning movement among these artists. 'Not for nothing did someone
write in the Moscow Press that people are almost equally interested in
Suprematist painting, Famira Kifared [Tairov's production at the
Kamerny Theatre with sets by Exter] and the speeches of Miliukov
in the Duma.' 7 By
191 8 it was reported: 'Suprematism has blossomed
throughout Moscow. Signs, exhibitions, cafes, everything is Suprema-
tist. One may with assurance say that Suprematism has arrived.
8

During the next two years before the outbreak of the Revolution,
the younger artists pursued, in a more or less ruthless fashion according
to their temperaments, the paths discovered by Malevich and Tatlin.
A number of minor exhibitions held during this period give an idea
of this development which seems to have been so little interrupted by
the war, as a few years later they continued their ideas, impervious to
the harshest physical conditions.
Kandinsky did not contribute to the two Petrograd exhibitions
which I have described here, but remained quietly working in

184 Vassily Kandinsky,


Yellow Accompaniment,
1924
186 Alexander Rodchenko,
Compass and ruler drawing,
1913-14

i8 5
Alexander Rodchenko,
The Dancer, 19 14

187 Alexander Rodchenko,


Compass and ruler drawing.
1915-16
Moscow. not until 1920 that the impact of Suprematism begins
It is

work, in a geometricization of forms. This was


to be discernible in his
after Malevich's triumphant series of exhibitions in Moscow; cul-
minating in his one-man show of 1919. One cannot help suspecting
that the relationsbetween Kandinsky and these artists after his return
to Russia were very far from intimate. This is indeed confirmed if we
notice which artists were colleagues of Kandinsky at this time. One of
the few exhibitions to which he sent works was the 'Exhibition of
Leftist Trends' held in Petrograd in 191 5. At once it places him, for
neither Malevich, Tatlin, nor Popova sent to this exhibition, but the
Burliuks did, so did close neighbours and friends of Kandinsky at

this time, the 'Cezannists' (of the 'Knave of Diamonds') and Nathan
Altman, a recently returned emigre working in a Cubist style. The
backbone of this rather unexciting exhibition were the new abstract
compositions by Rosanova, which were very Futurist in feeling, sharp
pointed forms organized in dashing dynamic combinations - with
such titles as Composition of Shining Objects. They were executed in
white, grey and black, which emphasized their formal energy.
With Tatlin's exhibition 'The Store' in 1916, a new figure was
introduced to this little world, who was shortly to become one of its
most energetic personalities in the Constructivist movement. This
was Alexander Rodchenko. Rodchenko was born in Saint Petersburg
in 1 891. He was the son of a theatre-accessories craftsman and a
laundress. The Rodchenko family was of very simple origin; they
were first-generation townspeople whose forefathers had. been serfs.
Mikhail Rodchenko, Alexander's father, was a very skilled craftsman,
and he passed on this gift to his son, who drew from a very early age,
a faculty naturally encouraged in the atmosphere of the theatre in
which he grew up. Rodchenko's earliest known drawings are for the
theatre and were executed while he was still attending his local art
school, the Kazan School of Art, in Odessa. He left this in 1914
before receiving his diploma and hastened to Moscow. There hejoined
the Stroganov School of Applied Art, but his intolerance of the
academic life soon drove him to leave. Already by the end of 191 4 he
had begun experimenting with pencil and compass drawings. The
earliest of these were still representational - for example, The Dancer. III. 183
This ingenious imitation of the Italian-cum-Malevich school of
Futurism was then succeeded by entirely abstract designs. Whereas

211
9

1 88 Alexander Rodchenko,
Composition, 191

The Dancer is a still-recognizable human which has been


figure
77/. 186 analyzed into geometric curved segments, these abstract draw-
first

ings are so highly formalized that the external source is no longer


III. 187 recognizable. In his works of 191 5 and 1916 the composition has
become freer and purely conceptual in its form based on the circle. It
was five such drawings that Rodchenko sent to Tatlin's exhibition of
1916, 'The Store'.
This was Rodchenko's first contact with Tatlin and Malevich. The

latterwas apparently invited to contribute to this exhibition on the


condition that no Suprematist works were to be included, for he sent
only Cubo-Futurist and 'Alogist' works such as An Englishman in
Moscow. Rodchenko's work of the next few years shows a vacillating

212

189 Alexander Rodchenko, Abstract Painting, 19 18


attraction to first Malevich's and then Tatlin's ideas.From Malcvich
he derived the dynamic axis which characterizes his work throughout,
and his useof pure geometric forms first in two-dimensional com-
positions and later in three-dimensional constructions and mobiles o\ Ills 203, 206
1920. From Tatlin, Rodchenko gained an interest in materials which
is reflected in his works of 191 6-1 7 with their play with surface

textures, at first artificially imitated, and then in real materials. From


a combination of these two influences Rodchenko evolved the

system of Constructivist design in which he was a pioneer.


It was while working directly with Tatlin on the interior decoration

of the Cafe Pittoresque that Rodchenko began to follow Tatlin's


example in working in 'real materials and real space' and that the seeds
of his ambition to become an artist-engineer were sown.
Tatlin was given the commission to design the interior of this
basement theatre-cafe in Moscow by the industrialist Filippov early in
190 Alexander Rodchenko.
Line Construction, 1920

1917, but as he was virtually incapable of working on his own, he


invited Georgy Yakulov, just back from the front badly wounded but
full of enthusiasm for the idea to join him on it; he also recruited his

new friend Rodchenko. All three contributed to the decoration of


the cafe, which became a typical centre of this crazy war-time art
world. Yakulov boasted to his pet friends Kamensky and Khlebnikov
how he was creating in the Cafe Pittoresque 'a railway of the world's
art inwhich a banner will be hung over the stage reading: "Orders to
the army by a master of the new era." Khlebnikov was caught up by
'

Yakulov's idea of 'launching an express of the new movements in art


into the world of man' and declared that he was determined to create
in the Pittoresque 'all the chairmen of the world who would finally
decide its fate'.
9

This 'chairman of the world' idea referred to a great 'Carnival of


the Arts' held in Petrograd a month previously. For the occasion
artists,writers, composers and actors had hired buses of every colour
into which they had piled and driven in slow procession along the
Nevsky Prospect. Bringing up the rear came a large lorry on the sides
of which had been chalked the words: 'The Chairman of the World'.
In the lorry, hunched up in a soldier's greatcoat, sat Khlebnikov.

214

191 Alexander Rodchenko, Line Construction, 1920


Such was the crazy, intoxicated atmosphere of this avant-garde
world in pre-Rcvolutionary, war-time Russia. Exhilarated by a sense
of power, tremendous optimism, and a giddy excitement as they
stood on the brink of a new world, they yet found themselves unable
to communicate this excitement to the society in which they found
themselves. They felt cut off and useless, their art given no more than
at best a mocking recognition as 'inanejokes', and so they were driven

into this wild bohemian cafe-life of which the Pittoresque was a


typical example. Everyone lived for the moment. Wild scenes of
orgy occurred such as characterized the contemporary Dada move-
ment centred in Zurich - and yet with it all and provoking this
desperate energy, there was a desire to be recognized, to be con-
8

members of society. From this stemmed the many scandals


tributing
little bohemian world. Anything, everything was
associated with this
employed to rouse a reaction from the bourgeois stupor which sur-
rounded them. Larionov and Goncharova would paint their faces,
parade in fancy costumes, sea-shells on their ears, grotesque masks on
their faces. Rich bourgeois would flock to the little avant-garde cafes
to hear Mayakovsky, spoon in buttonhole and wearing ever more
violent coloured shirts and jackets, pouring out rhymed abuse in his
magnificent bass voice.
Tatlin, Yakulov and Rodchenko's constructions formed a fitting
cadre for such a departure for the unknown. Their dynamic con-
structions in wood, metal and cardboard clung to the walls, squatted
in the corners, hung from the ceiling of this tiny interior, destroying
the idea of a room as an enclosed space with solid walls. Pillared
///. 1Q4 construction-fittingswere attached to the lights, forming rods and
shafts of light with their cupping intersecting planes, thus further
breaking up and 'dynamizing' the interior.

192 Alexander Rodchenko, Composition, 191

193 Alexander Rodchenko, Abstract Composition, 191


li

194 Alexander Rodchenko, Line Construction, c. 1917

195 Alexander Rodchenko, Abstract Composition, c. 1920

This dynamic decor so involved the clientele that the scene to a


spectator must have been very similar to a play, although the rich
bourgeois audience which attended the Futurist activities was by its

nature apathetic. However, such were the antics they witnessed that
it hard to imagine that they could have remained uninvolved -
is

indeed from the number of scandals reported in the press from


evenings in such cafes with these artists and poets fighting members of
the audience one might imagine that police intervention was the

217
regular end to a successful Futurist entertainment. Roaring Futurist
poets declaiming their latest 'Non-sense' verses, demonstrating and
disputing painters proclaiming their rival manifestoes, the tiny stage
loaded with miming giant puppet-figures, figures performing Greek
classics in jeans or cardboard costume, strutting and gesturing in
geometric movements in the latest 'Non-sense' play such as
Kruchenikh's Gli-GH, would bombard the senses of the audience from
every side. When the Revolution came in October of this same year,
these artists stopped at nothing to realize their wildly ambitious plans
of a new world transformed to the likeness of their dreams.

196 A corner of the Cafe Pittoresque, Moscow, 19 17, designed


by Tatlin, Yakulov and Rodchenko
chap ii:r seven

1917-21

In October 191 7 came the Revolution. To the artists this was the
signal for the extermination of the hated old order and the introduc-
tion of a new one based on industrialization. As Futurists they could
not but respond to the appeal of such a regime which announced the
advent not only of a communal way of life in which the artist would
be an integrated member of society, but also one which was based on
industrialization. 'Let us seize [the world] from the hands of nature
and build a new world belonging to [man] himself,' Malevich 1

announced. The Revolution gave a reality to their activity and a long-


sought direction to their energies - for there was no question in their
minds of not identifying their revolutionary discoveries in the artistic
field with this economic and political revolution: 'The events of 191
in the social field were already brought about in our art in 19 14 when
"material, volume and construction" were laid as its "basis",'
announced Tatlin; 2 'Cubism and Futurism were the revolutionary
forms in art foreshadowing the revolution in political and economic
life of 191 7,' said Malevich. 3

And so these 'leftist' artists, as they came to be called, leapt to the


cause of the Bolshevik Revolution, releasing their frustrated energies
in anation-wide propaganda war for the new world which they felt
to be imminent. So anxious were they to prove themselves useful
contributing members of this new society - 'growing with the stem
of the organism and participating in its expediency', as Malevich
. . .

expressed it 4 - that they took into their own hands the active re-
organization of the artistic life of the country. Now, they announced,
was not the time for idle picture painting - a square of canvas is, after
all, a feeble and irrelevant means of communication (with odious
associations with the bourgeois system) when the streets are yours to
paint, the squares and bridges the obvious arena of activity. 'We do
not need a dead mausoleum of art where dead works are worshipped,
but a living factory of the human spirit - in the streets, in the tramways,
in the factories, workshops and workers' home.' 5 Thus spoke

219
Mayakovsky at a discussion 'for the wide working masses' held in the
requisitioned Winter Palace in November 191 8. This open discussion
was organized by the 'Department of Fine Arts of the Commissariat
for the People's Education' - known as IZO Narkompros. (These
abbreviated titles were typical of this period; there are so many of
them and they are so alike that it is often difficult for the historian to
identify them. So quickly was one organization succeeded by another,
and so numerous were these bodies, that often people who themselves
took part in these historic events, are at a loss to explain a sequence or
recognize a name-tag.) The theme of this discussion was 'A sanctuary
or a factory?' It is reported that the discussion, the fourth of its kind,
was a huge success with the audience. Apart from Mayakovsky, Osip
Brik and Nikolai Punin, the champion of Tatlin, spoke. Punin
described the place of art in society during the Middle Ages in Europe
and urged a return to these relations. The artist must cease to be the
victim, and his art an object of worship. Already we have the 'culture
of materials' which points the way to the new proletarian art an :

entirely new era in art must begin. 'The proletariat will create new
houses, new streets, new objects of everyday life. . Art of the
. .

proletariat is not a holy shrine where things are lazily regarded, but
work, a factory which produces new artistic things.' 6
The intuitive need of these artists to be active builders, first indi-
cated in Tatlin's constructions in 'real materials and real space',
was now to be given an opportunity to be expressed. Leaving
their painting - 'speculative activity' - and their paint and brushes
- 'useless and outmoded tools' - they joyfully plunged into the
experiment, blissfully regardless of the physical and practical sacrifices
involved. Most of their fellow-citizens were entirely absorbed in the
day-to-day bitter struggle for survival, but these artists, one feels on
reading their manifestoes and descriptions of their discussions and
activities, were hardly living in this grim present. It is difficult to

believe that they were almost literally starving - with the chaos in the
countryside leading to monstrous difficulties in transportation, living

conditions were reduced to the most primitive.They rode lightheaded


on the surge of release and the new-born purpose to their
sense of a
existence; an intoxication drove them on to the most heroic feats: all
was forgotten and dismissed but the great challenge which they saw
before them of changing the world in which they lived. Surely it is the

220
first time in history that it young a group of
has been given to so
artists to realize their on such a scale.
vision in practical terms
In the four short years allowed them, known as the period of 'heroic
Communism', these few artists succeeded in setting up museums of
their art all over the country and reorganizing the art schools according
to a programme based on their recent discoveries in abstract painting.
They took charge of the decoration of the streets for the First of May
and October Revolution anniversary celebrations; they organized
streetpageants depicting the Revolutionary take-over involving
thousands of citizens - a novel and highly successful method of
identifying a people with a cause; in the same spirit they organized
dramatic 'mock' tribunals in the public streets to instil the elements of
Soviet justice, or to bring to heel any other 'enemy of the people'; in
the same way rudimentary education was given in, for example, the
laws of hygiene; how to rear chickens, or plant corn, or the correct
way to breathe, were the subjects of some of these pageants and poster
propaganda efforts. The whole man, the healthy worker of the new
society, was a common ideal to both the artist and the Communist
regime.
One of the biggest of the public demonstrations to be so organized
was the first anniversary of the October Revolution. All over the

country, wherever they happened to be - Kiev, Vitebsk, Moscow or


Petrograd - the artists volunteered to prepare a suitable demonstration
for this great holiday.
Nathan Altman took charge of arrangements in Petrograd, still the
capital of the country. He requisitioned the great square in front of Ills 197-99
the Winter Palace, decorating the central obelisk with huge abstract
sculptures - a dynamic Futurist construction was mounted at the base
of the column. The buildings all round the square were camouflaged
in Cubist and Futurist designs. Twenty thousand 'arshins' of canvas
were used to decorate the square Two years later, not content merely
!

with decoration, Altman, Puni, Bogoslavskaya and their friends staged


a re-enactment of the storming of the Winter Palace - with, of course, ///. 200
complete realism. The realism was provided by a whole borrowed
battalion and their equipment, and thousands of good Petrograd
citizens, the whole dramatized by giant arc-lights - obtained in a
desperate last-minute smash-and-grab from an electrician's shop -
which threw up against the sky Altman's abstract designs behind the

221
I97- J 99 Nathan Altman's designs
for decorating the great square
in front of the Winter Palace in
Petrograd, for the celebration of the
first anniversary of the October
Revolution of 1917
IM
If if
JftS**' I:-''

r
1
1
e! 1
11 s=
HMMHH0B /
i
1 ft r Ti

200 A photograph of the re-enactment of the Revolution staged by Altman and


fellow-leftists inOctober 1920

hastily erected stage. It was decided at the dress-rehearsal that


'Kerensky' looked a puppet-figure in such surroundings - and so fifty
Kerenskys were placed on a rostrum, fifty identical puppets, perform-
ing identical gestures fifty times over, as the Red Army - standing on
alower rostrum on the right-hand side (like Hell and the devils in a
medieval pageant) - gradually drove the ceremonial White Army
dolls in splendid array from their proud superiority. The overthrow
of the White Army was followed by the triumphant surging forward
of the two thousand spectators as the battalion drove through the
gates in their lorries accompanied by every kind of instrument,
trumpeting, whistling, ringing the triumph of the Bolshevik Revolu-
tion. Small wonder that when the authorities heard about it later - no
permission had been thought necessary for a theatrical pageant -
there was a severe reprimand for the commander of the battalion who
had known nothing about it. It might have been real! 7
yu\1\ H.n.B.
ff
TIWWwn

$^m

mwm\

201 An Agitation-Instruction train: The Red Cossack

On a smaller scale physically, but with the same enthusiasm, these


artists, actors, writers and composers organized 'heroic-revolutionary'
impromptu plays all over the country. Tatlin, Annenkov and Meyer-
hold designed sets while factory siren symphonies took place under
Mayakovsky's supervision in his drive towards 'making the streets his
Ills 201, 202 brushes and the squares his palette'. 8 Trains decorated with Revolu-
tionary themes were sent to the front carrying news of the Revolution
- both political and artistic - to every corner of the country. 9 There
seemed to be no limit to the ingenuity with which these artists made
propaganda for the Revolution.
Lenin himself suggested early in 191 8 that towns should erect
propaganda monuments to the world heroes of the Revolution. The
list of those to be honoured included Belinsky and Chernishevsky,

but also Moussorgsky, Courbet and Cezanne. However, the project


was by and large not much of a success. 10 Most of the artists who were
commissioned to execute such monuments were of the realistic
school, for sculpture in Russia had lagged far behind painting and the
relatively small number of sculptors were hopelessly academic. The
works which they produced were painfully naturalistic portraits,
many times larger than life. They were stuck up on pedestals in the
middle of Moscow in mid-winter, executed in the most primitive
materials. If noticed at all, their naivete apparently excited nothing
but smiles. Those which tried to be more expressive, perhaps in a

224
vaguely 'Cubist' or 'Futurist' style, insulted the citizens by their
'distortion' of much-loved faces. Sherwood's Cubist portrait ot
Bakunin could not be unboarded for days, because of such feeling
against it - when it was, it was demolished in a matter of hours by
anarchists
The only monument whose style matched its subject was Tatlin's
dynamic Monument to the Illrd International. It was early in 19 19 that ///. 203
the Department of Fine Arts commissioned him to execute this
project which was to be erected in the centre of Moscow. During
1919 and 1920 he worked on it and built models in metal and wood
with three assistants in his studio in Moscow. One of these was
exhibited at the Exhibition of the VHIth Congress of the Soviets held
in December 1920. 'A union of purely artistic forms (painting,
sculpture and architecture) for a utilitarian purpose' was how Tatlin
11
described it.

>02 The 'Red Star' Agitational-Boat


;

For it was not to be an idle symbol - how unsuited to the new


economic order if a useless monument should be raised to its glory!
No It was to be dynamic, both in its outward form and inner activity.
!

'Least of all must you stand or sit in this building, you must be
mechanically transported up, down, carried along willy-nilly; in
front of you will flash the firm, laconic phrases of an announcer-
agitator, further on the latest news, decree, decision, the latest
invention will be announced creation, only creation.' 12
. . .

It was this quality of movement which was introduced as an

aesthetic principle in Tatlin's Monument that immediately became a


characteristic of the design of the emerging Constructivist movement.
Gabo's first 'Kinetic models' and Rodchenko's mobiles likewise date
from 1920.
Tatlin's Monument was to be twice the height of the Empire State
Building. It was to be executed in glass and iron. An iron spiral frame-
work was to support a body consisting of a glass cylinder, a glass cone
and a glass cube. This body was to be suspended on a dynamic
asymmetrical axis, like a leaning Eiffel Tower, which would thus
continue its spiral rhythm into space beyond. Such 'movement' was
not to be confined to the static design. The body of the Monument
was literally going to move. The cylinder was to revolve on its
itself

axis once portion of the building


a year: the activities allocated to this
were and congress meetings. The cone was to
lectures, conferences
complete a revolution once a month and to house executive activities.
The topmost cube was to complete a full turn on its axis once a day
and to be an information centre. It was constantly to issue news
bulletins, proclamations and manifestoes - by means of telegraph,
telephone, radio and loudspeaker. A special feature was to be an open-
air screen, lit up at night, which would constantly relay the latest news

a special projection was to be installed which in cloudy weather


would throw words on the sky, announcing the motto for the day -
'a particularly useful suggestion for the intemperate North'.
Unfortunately the project never got further than the models which
Tatlin and his assistants built in wood and wire. These models came
to be a symbol of the Utopian world which these artists had hoped to
build. In many ways it is typical of their hopes, so ambitious, so
romantic and so utterly impractical. For though fired by the idea of
actively taking part in building and organizing the new world, in

226
203 Vladimir Tatlin, Monument to the Illrd International, 1919-20
dismissing the easel painting as an anachronism both in its tools and
its social connotations, they were not equipped to become the artist-
engineers of which they dreamed.
The Department of Fine Arts (izo) was created in 191 8 under the
Commissariat for People's Education (Narkompros). It was respons-
ible for the organization and running of the artistic life of the country
under the new Soviet government. It was through their domination
of this institution that the 'leftist' artists came to be called the official
artists of the new society. Lunacharsky, the Commissar of Education,

was a man of liberal outlook and broad culture. Before the Revolution
when he had been living in exile he had known a number of his
countrymen who had been studying art abroad in Paris, Munich or
Berlin. Among these was his great friend David Shterenberg. He also
knew Nathan Altman and was aware of Kandinsky's reputation in

204 Naum Gabo.


Project for a
Radio Station,
1919-20
205
Alexander Rodchenko,
Construction, 1920

206
Alexander Rodchenko,
Hanging Construction,
,-.- 1920
8

Germany. When he returned to Russia to take up his appointment in


the Bolshevik government, Lunacharsky naturally turned to these
former friends and acquaintances to help him. David Shterenberg
was appointed Director of izo, and the executive consisted almost
entirely of artists. Altman became head of the Petrograd section, and
Tatlin of its Moscow counterpart. Both the 'right' and 'left' schools
were invited, but it was the 'leftist' who responded and thereby
gained that 'leftist dictatorship of the arts' which their right-wing
colleagues so bitterly complained of later when they had taken heart
again under the New Economic Policy in 1921. Kandinsky, Altman,
Nikolai Punin the art critic, Osip Brik the Futurist writer and apologist
of the Proletcult, and Olga Rosanova, who died so prematurely, were
among other 'leftist' members of this izo Kollegia.
One of the first actions of the Kollegia was to set up a Museum
Bureau and Purchasing Fund, which became one of its most ambitious
schemes. The government contributed two million roubles to buy
modern works of art and to equip and set up museums throughout
the country. During the years 191 8-21 thirty-six museums were set
up throughout the country and twenty-six more were planned at the
time when the Kollegia was liquidated in 1921. 13 These museums
were equipped with works bought from artists of every school,
although there were angry protests in Pravda in 191 14 against the
fund being used to buy works of Futurists '. . whose future is still
.

extremely controversial', instead of Benois, Golovin and other 'World


of Art' and established pre-Revolutionary artists. Lunacharsky him-
self answered this accusation. 'Purchases are being made from all
artists, but in the first place from those artists who were outlawed

during the reign of bourgeois taste and who are therefore not repre-
sented in our galleries.' 15 With this chain of galleries, Russia became
the first country in the world to exhibit abstract art officially and on
such a wide scale.
Rodchenko was the Director of the Museum Bureau. Although it
was the Museum 'Kollegia' which actually selected the works, it was
Rodchenko's job to decide to which towns the works should be
allocated. Perhaps he was not quite the impartial arbiter that he might
have been. Gabo tells the story that Kandinsky - a member of the
Museum Kollegia - approached him one day to warn him that
Rodchenko was proposing to send Gabo's composition A Head to a

230
tiny village Tsarevokokshaisk in the depths of Siberia. The indignant
Gabo withdrew work immediately, to the fury of Rodchenko!
his
Thirteen of these new galleries were entitled 'Museums of Artistic
Culture', a name based on Tatlin's 'Culture of materials'. The idea of
such a museum and its organization was put forward by Nikolai
Punin, an editor of the influential 'leftist' organ Iskusstvo Kommuni
(Art of the Commune), a weekly paper which ran from 191 8 to 1919,
and great friend and champion of Tatlin. The Museum of Artistic
Culture was to be devoted entirely to artistic education 'to enable
people to become familiar with the development and methods of
artistic creation'. 16 In addition, there was to be an 'Historical Museum'

and an 'Exhibition Museum' - the former having, of course, no claim


to artistic influence, being simply a reference centre for scientific
study. This attitude of dismissing the art of the past as having no
creative contribution to make of the present day was basic
to the art
to Punin and his colleagues on the Iskusstvo Kommuni - it was to
become one of the chief accusations levelled against the 'leftists' in
later years.
The two principal galleries of Artistic Culture were organized in
Moscow and Petrograd in 191 8. They housed a permanent exhibition
of 'leftist' art, and it was in the Petrograd Gallery that Tatlin produced
Khlebnikov's play Zan-Gesi in 1923. 17 Malevich later lived in the Ills 146, 147
building in Petrograd, being in charge of a laboratory of experimental
painting in the gallery school during the years 1923-8. 77/. 218
In the summer of 1918 the old Petrograd Academy of Art had been
closed,its teachers sacked and all its paintings requisitioned by the

government. The school broke away and for a short time existed as
an autonomous body. In October of the same year, however, it was
re-formed under izo as the Petrograd Free Studios (Svomas). The
programme of the re-formed school announced:
1 All those wishing to receive specialist art training have the right
to enter Svomas.
2. This applies to those over the age of 16. No kind of diploma of
education is demanded.
3. All those who previously belonged to art schools are considered
members of Svomas.
4. Applications will be accepted all the year round.

231
207 Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, igi8 in Petrograd, 1920

This announcement was signed by Lunacharsky and Shterenberg. 18


Added to this was the right to elect one's own professor and to divide
intoworking groups according to one's choice. Altman, Puni, Petrov-
Vodkin and later Tatlin, Malevich and Shterenberg had studios in
Svomas. 19 This was a real revolution from the dead academic body
which it had swept away, 'a clearing of the Augean stables' as it was
called. Nevertheless such a very liberal organization soon led to a state
of complete anarchy and chaos. In 1921 the Svomas were abolished
and the schools were brought under the 'Akademia Khudozhest-
vennikh Nauk', Academy of Sciences. In 1922 it was re-established
according to a programme worked out by Kandinsky.
In Moscow much the same pattern evolved. In 191 8 the College of
Painting, Sculpture and Architecture was closed and re-formed,
together with the previous Stroganov School of Applied Art, into
the 'Higher Technical-Artistic Studios' (Vkhutemas). Gabo describes
the set-up of the Vkhutemas thus:

What important to know about the character of the institution


is

is thatwas almost autonomous; it was both a school and a free


it

academy where not only the current teaching of special professions


was carried out (there were seven departments Painting, Sculpture,
:

2}2
Architecture, Ceramics, Metalwork and Woodwork, Textile and
Typography) but general discussions were held and seminars
conducted amongst the students on diverse problems where the
public could participate, and artists not officially on the faculty
could speak and give lessons. It had an audience of several thousand
students, although a shifting one due to the civil war and the war
with Poland. There was a free exchange between workshops and
also the private studios such as mine. During these seminars as
. . .

well as during the general meetings, many ideological questions


between opposing artists in our abstract group were thrashed out.
These gatherings had a much greater influence on the later develop-
ment of constructive art than all the teaching. 20

Among those who had studios here were Malevich, Tatlin, Kandinsky,
Rosanova, Pevsner, Morgunov, Udaltsova, Kusnetsov, Falk and
Favorsky. The latter artist was an engraver who later had a great ///. 208
influence on the first generation of Vkhutemas painting students, such
as Deineka and Pimenov, which arose as a reaction to the abstract III. 213
schools in the early 'twenties.
The programme of the 'leftist' professors in the Vkhutemas was
dictated by the Institute of Artistic Culture, an organization entirely

208 Vladimir Favorsky, an


engraved illustration to the
Book of Ruth, published in
1925
.

dominated by the 'leftists', which concerned itself with working out


a theoretical approach to art under a Communist society. Its first
branch was set up in Moscow in May 1920 as a section of izo; in
December 1921 it extended its activities to Petrograd under Tatlin,
and to Vitebsk under Malevich.
The Institute of Artistic Culture - known as Inkhuk - was initially
to be run according to a programme worked out by Kandinsky. This
programme embraced Suprematism, Tatlin's 'Culture of materials'
as well as Kandinsky's own theories. It was an attempt to systematize
these various experiences into a pedagogical method. The programme
was published in 1920 with the formation of Inkhuk. 21 It was divided
into two parts the 'Theory of separate branches of art' and 'Combina-
:

tion of separate arts to create a monumental art'.

The first part consists of an analysis of the specific qualities of each


artistic medium. The point of departure is to be the psychological
reaction of the artist to the quality. (For example: red is known to
excite activity.) On the results of such analyses an Art Dictionary of
conscious line and forms is to be made covering every medium. A
dictionary of free, exceptional forms is also to be compiled in a
similar way.
Colour is to be examined in (a) its absolute, and (b) its relative
values.
a. The colours are to be studied first individually and then in
combinations. These studies are to be co-ordinated with medical,
physiological, chemical and occult knowledge and experience of
the subject, e.g. sensory association and colour; colour and sound,
etc.

b. Colour in combination with drawn forms. This is to be

approached by:
1 Combination of primary colours with simple geometric forms.
2. Combination of complementary colours in similar forms.

3. Crossed combinations of primary and complementary colours

in simple geometric forms.


4. Primary colours combined with free, exceptional forms.

5. Crossing combinations of colour and forms.

A dictionary noting the conclusions of such a programme is to be


published.

234
The second part of the programme was to be devoted to the creation
of monumental art. 'This would be most conveniently worked out
where the qualities of individual artistic media arc to be
in the theatre
worked out, e.g. words or movement can be reduced to their basic by
means of repetition, combination, etc., until a state of ecstasy is
induced.' Scriabin's work was quoted as an example of parallel
streams of colour and sound.
These ideas, which were shortly afterwards to form the basis of
Kandinsky's Bauhaus course, met with strong opposition on the part
of the future Constructivists in Inkhuk. Engrossed with a rationalist
conception of artistic creation, Kandinsky's ideas of art as a psychic,
intuitiveprocess were anathema to them. And so Kandinsky's
programme was almost immediately turned down by a majority vote.
As a result ideas, Kandinsky left Inkhuk. At
of this dismissal of his
the end of the year he was invited by Lunacharsky to become a
member of the Praesidium which was to reorganize the various
educational and artistic institutions in Moscow as an Academy of
Sciences. This was in accordance with Lenin's New Economic Policy,
introduced in 1921, and formed part of Lunacharsky 's scheme for the
reorganization of the educational system of the country.
Kandinsky was destined never to see any of his programmes for art
education put into practice in his native country. The one that he
worked out for the new Department of Fine Arts in the Academy of
Sciences was similar to that which he had proposed to Inkhuk, 22 but
the authorities were occupied with acute problems of lack of food,
fuel and living space, and it was shelved.
The Department of Fine Arts in the new Moscow Academy was
not organized until 1922. By this time Kandinsky had left Russia to
take up the post offered him in the Weimar Bauhaus.
With Kandinsky's departure from Inkhuk a new programme was
worked out. After much discussion, 'pure painting' was dismissed by
everybody, but the members of the Institute were divided on the next
step to be taken and therefore divided themselves into two groups.
The members of the first group were to devote themselves to
'laboratory art', those of the second to 'production art'. This division
was to become more and more marked until it led to the dramatic
split in the ranks of these 'leftists' in 1921.

The exhibitions organized under the new regime were dominated

235
5

by Suprematism. The first was held December 191 8, and was a


in
large retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of Olga Rosanova,
who had died of diphtheria a few months before. Rosanova was so
typical a member of this avant-garde in Russia that it is worth while
giving a brief outline of her Born in 1886
life. in a small town near
Vladimir, she came to Moscow to do her art training in a private
studio and then in the Stroganov School of Applied Art. She was a
foundation-member of the 'Union of Youth' group in Saint Peters-
burg and among the first to be associated with this Futurist movement.
She was both a painter and a poet, contributing to most of the Futurist
publications in one or other or both of these capacities; she was an
ardent speaker in the many pre-war public discussions. Her place in the
modern movement in Russia is not that of an innovator but, like
Popova and Exter, of a talented follower. Her early work reflects the
influence more of the Italian Futurists than the French Cubists, and
her abstract painting, which dates from 19 16, retained this dynamic
force. After the Revolution, Rosanova, with her early connection
with the Stroganov School, devoted her energies to the reorganization
of industrial art in the country. It was due to her energies that a special
sub-section in izo was created in August 191 8 dealing with this field:
she brought many existing schools into this organization through
personal persuasion and by travelling far and wide throughout the
country. This needed a phenomenal courage and sense of mission, for
conditions in the country at this time were chaotic and it was almost
impossible for civilians to get transport. Before she died Rosanova
drew up a plan for the reorganization of the museums of industrial art
in Moscow which was later carried out. Her schemes for the reconcilia-
tion of art and industry were likewise soon realized in the Con-
structivist movement. When she was taken was actually engaged
ill she
in putting up banners and slogans in an aerodrome for the coming
anniversary celebrations of the October Revolution, and died within
a week of this. Her posthumous exhibition which opened a few weeks
later included 250 paintings from Impressionism to Suprematism.
Following this, the next exhibition of interest was the 'Fifth State
Exhibition', held at the beginning of 19 19. It was entitled: 'The Trade
Union of Artist-Painters of the New Art. From Impressionism to
Abstract painting', and was held in the Museum of Fine Arts - now
the Pushkin Museum -in Moscow. In keeping with the Revolutionary

236

209 Anton Pevsner, Camaval, 191


theory, this was a jury-less exhibition to which anyone who felt the
title to be apt for his work could contribute.
It was notable chiefly for the work of Kandinsky, who sent a
number of paintings of 19 17 such Grey Oval, Green Comb
as Descent,
and Clarity and for the introduction of Anton Pevsner to the Moscow
;

scene. Otherwise, the abstract schools were represented by Rodchenko,


Stepanova and Popova. Neither Tatlin nor Malevich sent any pictures.
On the other hand, there were several minor, passed-over artists such
as the 'Knave of Diamonds' group, Russian members of the Munich
'Blaue Reiter' and Favorsky the graphic artist.
At this point it may be useful to give a brief sketch of the lives of
Anton Pevsner and his brother Gabo, and their contribution to the
post-Revolutionary art scene in Russia.

210
Naum Gabo,
Head of a Woman,
1916-17
Anton Pevsner (i 886-1962) began to paint in 1902, having dis-
covered and become fascinated by Byzantine art. In 1910 he went to
Saint Petersburg and entered the Academy of Art, but the following
year left for Paris, where he remained, except for a brief return to
Russia in 191 3, until the outbreak of war. While staying in Oslo
during the war, Pevsner continued to paint Cubist works such as
Camaval, to which the early Heads of Gabo, his brother, produced ///. 20Q
in 191 5 and 1916, bear a close relation. It was not until after the brothers
had left Russia, early in 1922, that Pevsner began working on con-
structions. He and Gabo have continued to follow the theories which
they evolved when still in Russia; their work, like so much in the
history of the modern movement in Russian art, was introduced most
dramatically to the West by Diaghilev in their designs for his ballet
La Chatte (1926). Gabo and Pevsner belonged to the anti-production-
art group in Inkhuk; to express their opposition to these future
Constructivists they wrote their Realistic Manifesto. 23
Pevsner's younger brother Naum (born 1890), who later took his
middle name Gabo in order to avoid confusion with his brother, had
spent the war years in Oslo, where he had begun working on his first
constructions in such materials as sheet-metal and celluloid. Gabo did
not attend an art school, but after taking his university degree in
medicine in Munich in 1912, he began an engineering course and also
attended Wolfflin's lectures on the history of art. It was while working
out mathematical problems that he first began to make constructions -
his first works being cubes and geometrical figures. After his elder
brother's arrival in Oslo, and probably under his influence, he began
(19 1 6-1 7) doing representational constructions with titles such as
Head or Torso. In 191 7 he returned to Moscow and produced some ///. 210
architectural designs such as Project for a Radio Station, not unlike the ///. 204
experiments of the future Constructivists. In particular Gabo shares
with them an interest in the dynamic principle. Unlike his brother
Anton, Gabo did not take part in any exhibition while in Russia and
held no official position in the Vkhutemas. However, as he says:
'Unofficially I was as active in the life of the school as if I had an
official appointment . .my brother Anton Pevsner had a studio
.

there teaching painting, but any of his students who wanted to learn
sculpture were my students. 24
. .
.'

To return to the 'laboratory art' faction of Inkhuk. The 'Fifth State

239
Exhibition' was eventually succeeded by the 'Tenth State Exhibition:
Abstract Creation and Suprematism'. This was the culminating point
of abstract painting in Russia and unlike the previous show was
limited to the kernel of the 'laboratory art' group. Malevich sent his

77/. 21 1 famous 'White on White' series to this exhibition. In the catalogue to


the exhibition, Malevich wrote: 'I have broken the blue shade of
colour boundaries and come out into white. Behind me comrade
pilots swim in the whiteness. I have established the semaphore of
III. 212 Suprematism.' In reply to this, Rodchenko sent his Black on Black
painting. His manifesto reads chiefly as a list of quotations: 'As a
basis for my work Iput nothing' (M. Stirner). 'Colours drop out,
everything is mixed in black' (from Kruchenikh's play Gli-Gli).
'Murder serves as a self-justification for the murderer, for he tries
thereby to prove that nothing exists' (Otto Weininger: Aphorism),
together with many quotations from Walt Whitman. Popova,
Stepanova, Alexander Vesnin and two representative works by
Rosanova were also shown at this exhibition, which consisted of
220 works in all. This was the last group painting exhibition by this
'leftist' avant-garde in Russia.
Malevich, however, had one-man show at the end of 19 19 in
a
which his work was summed It was called 'From Impressionism
up.
to Suprematism' and included 153 works. With this one-man show,
Malevich announced that Suprematism as a movement in painting
had come to an end. He told Pevsner that 'the cross' - which is the
dominant symbol in many of his last works - 'is my cross', so person-
ally did he feel this 'death of painting'. From this time, until nep and
his appointment as a Professor in the Petrograd Museum of Pictorial
Culture, Malevich worked more and more in his school in Vitebsk.
There is a scandal attached to Malevich's take-over of this school.
Originally, Chagall was appointed Director of his native Vitebsk
School of Art in 191 8. However, he made the mistake of inviting a
few of his colleagues from Moscow to come and teach there, among
whom was Malevich. Shortly afterwards, taking advantage of
Chagall's temporary absence in Moscow, Malevich took over the
school and informed Chagall that his work and methods were old-
fashioned and irrelevant, and that he, Malevich, was the guardian of
the 'new art', and future Director of the Vitebsk School of Art. Such
was Malevich's stubbornness and power of repartee that he - typically

240
-had his own way, and the highly disgruntled Chagall left for Moscow,
where he began working as a scenic designer for The State Jewish ///. 168
Theatre. One of works, sadly now destroyed, was his
his greatest
decoration of this theatre's vestibule with a great frieze.
It was in Vitebsk that Lissitzky, who had been working with

Chagall there since before the Revolution on Jewish book illustration,


first came with Malevich. Malevich was one of the most
in contact
ubiquitous of those 'leftist' artists, whose constant travelling and
simultaneous occupation of several posts during these first four years
of the Soviet regime make tracing their movements and activities such
a particularly nightmarish job for the historian - there are almost no
accounts of this period; those that exist are one-sided or very sketchy;
the reminiscences of people still living tend to be likewise contradic-
tory. And so any account of this period has to rely largely on things
like exhibition catalogues and newspaper reviews, which necessarily
give a rather dry and schematic result.
Malevich renamed the Vitebsk school 'Unovis', which is short for
College of the New Art, 25 and began there to evolve his pedagogical
method. Our knowledge of his method of teaching is so far limited to
what he himself has written on the subject. Much of the book, which
appeared in German in 1927 as Die Gegenstandlose Welt, one of the
Bauhausbiicher series, is devoted to his theories of colours, forms and
their interrelations. How far and in what way this was systematized
in a practical teaching method is difficult to ascertain. Certainly,
judging from the charts which Malevich sent to the German
'Kunstausstellung' 26 of 1927 in Berlin, there was little scientific basis
for his theories, and it must have remained in fact a matter of intuition,
not unlike that which Kandinsky advocated to Inkhuk. During this
period in Vitebsk, Malevich wrote several other articles and brochures 27
dealing first with his personal road to abstract painting, and then on a
more general level, writing of his views on life and religion. Malevich's
language shows an odd mixture of the illiterate, the patriarch and the
genuine poet, but his highly illogical use of words, often in two or
three senses in the same work, makes his writing of dubious value in
explaining his ideas. For the same reason these works are extremely
difficult to translate, and lose much by translation. His sentences are

sometimes of immense length - and he strings his words together in


such a way that often the sense is conveyed by half-meanings and by

241
2ii Kasimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition : White on White, 1918

the very obscurity of the expression. In translation they sometimes


cease tohave any meaning whatever.
Malevich spent little time in Moscow during 1920 and 1921, and
thus he virtually conceded victory to the 'production art' group in
Inkhuk. It was during this time that Rodchenko became more and
more concerned with social questions and in common with his wife

242
212 Alexander Rodchenko, Black on Black, 191

Stepanova, Alexander Vesnin, Alexandra Exter and Liubov Popova


turned more and more towards the ideas of Tatlin and his 'Culture
of materials', towards the idea of the 'artist-engineer'. These artists'
last stand for 'speculative painting' before abandoning it for 'real
work' was reflected in the exhibition '5 x 5 = 25' in which only the
above-mentioned five artists took part.

243
-:

CHAPTER EIGHT

1921-22

The artistic administration of the country during the first four years

of the Soviet regime, known as the period of 'heroic Communism',


presents a picture of extreme confusion and anarchy. By 1921,
however, the civil war, the war with Poland, and the German and
Allied intervention had come to an end with the Bolsheviks emerging
triumphant. The country had been devastated by these seven long
years of war and isolation, and was further prostrated by the appalling
famines of 192 1-2. But Russia was at last at peace and contact with
the outside world was again possible. A period of reconstruction and
demand for order thus came to replace the feverish atmosphere of the
previous four years when no one had known from one day to another
who was in power or what the next day held for them.
The general attempt to bring order into the country was reflected
in the artistic administration by a reorganization of all existing bodies
which were legion - bringing them under the central administration
of Lunacharsky and Narkompros ('The Peoples Commissariat for
Education'). This measure was of little practical effect, however, due
largely to the financial crisis and the consequent replacement of
government patronage of art by that of the new bourgeoisie. The force
of the Proletcult movement likewise opposed this centralization of
artistic affairs under the aegis of a Party control.

The Proletcult - short for the 'Organization for Proletarian Culture'


- was founded in 1906. It did not, however, become an effective body
until the Revolution of 1917. Its doctrine was of a militant Com-
munist order, and its professed aim the creation of Proletarian culture
'Art is a social product, conditioned by the social environment. It is
also a means of organizing labour. . The Proletariat must have its
. .

own "class" art in order to organize its forces in the struggle for
socialism.' 1 The chief theorist of the Proletcult movement was
Bogdanov, a Marxist who had
always quarrelled with Lenin on the
tenet, basic to the Proletcult movement, that there are three indepen-
dent roads to Socialism: the economic, the political and the cultural.

244
On thistheory Bogdanov proclaimed the Proletcult to be an autono-
mous body, independent of the Party; Lenin, on the other hand, held
that all organizations should be under the central Party administration.
This conflict soon came to a head, and in October 1920 Lenin took
Lunacharsky to task for supporting the Proletcult's claim to be the
'true representatives of Proletarian culture'; December he ordered
in
the Proletcult to submit to the authority of Narkompros. 2 It is
reported that Lenin said that such a monopoly by one school to the
title of official Proletarian art was both ideologically and practically
harmful. 3 However, the idea of a separate Proletarian culture persisted
into the 'thirties and is now embodied in the official aesthetic of
Socialist Realism. 4 This fierce rivalry for the titleof 'Proletarian
artist' was a feature not only of the first four years of the Soviet
regime, but continued throughout the 'twenties until 1932 when
'Socialist Realism' was' announced as the one official style, and all
artistic organizations were brought under one central body, the
'Union of Artists'.
Immediately after the Revolution, the Proletcult set about putting
into practice its long-prepared system. From the beginning there was
a natural interest in uniting art and industry, since as the Proletcult
was basically concerned with creating a mass-culture, industry was
the natural starting-point for its activities. In August 1918 a Proletcult
'Art-Production sub-section' was formed on the lines of a programme
drawn up by Olga Rosanova, who thereupon became head of this
department until she died in November 191 8.
In 1922, due to a combination of forces, most of the artists in
Inkhuk who were moving towards Constructivism became members
of the Proletcult. The partial return of the capitalist system introduced
under Lenin's New Economic Policy brought to an end the 'dictator-
ship' which these artists had enjoyed during the four years of 'heroic
Communism'. Under nep a new bourgeoisie arose which was soon in
a position to patronize the arts, unlike the penniless government, and
naturally enough this new art patron inclined towards a familiar
form, 'pre-Revolutionary' in every sense of the term. This return of
the old enemy to power disgusted the 'leftist' artists, but it also meant
that they had to look for other means of support, and industry was the
obvious solution. However, this turning to industry was also a logical
step in the internal development of ideas in Inkhuk, of the gradual

245
-8

dismissal of easel painting and 'pure art' towards the idea of Con-
structivism and 'production art'.

With the transfer of the capital from Petrograd to Moscow in 191


most of the 'leftist' artists congregated in the new centre of activity.
These were months of extreme physical hardship during which most
of the population was existing at subsistence level. For the artists this
was a time of furious activity, largely confined to endless discussion
and projected schemes. They were obsessed with the new role which
they, as artists, were being called upon to play. Art was no longer
something remote, a vague ideal of society, but life itself. The fact
that 'life itself was at that moment in a state of utter social and
economic chaos did not disturb them it made the ideal of a world
;

transformed by mechanization all the more breathtaking and


miraculous. They leapt forward in their imagination and designs to
this inevitable future, a world of skyscrapers, rockets and automation
for indeed such is the world which, if examined, their projects
foretold. The tragedy of these artists lies in the contradiction between
the Utopia that they envisaged and planned and conditions as they
actually were. Most of their projects either remained on paper or
were realized only in make-believe, in theatrical productions. But of
such plans and ideas there was no shortage.
Passionate debate was therefore their main occupation; the
inevitable subject - the question of the role of the artist and of art in
the new Communist society. It was largely as a result of these endless
debates that the Constructivist ideology emerged.
Inkhuk in Moscow was the centre of these debates - although they
took place everywhere and at all times.

From the outset there was a division among the Institute's members
which became more and more pronounced as the year 1920 lengthened
into 1921.
On the one side stood Malevich, Kandinsky and the Pevsner
brothers. They argued was essentially a spiritual activity, that
that art
its business was man's vision of the world. To organize life
to order
practically as an artist-engineer, they claimed, was to descend to the
level of a craftsman, and a primitive one at that. Art, they claimed, is
inevitably, by its very nature, useless, superfluous, over and above
workmanlike functional design. In becoming useful, art ceases to
exist. In becoming a utilitarian designer, the artist ceases to provide the

246
source for new design. Malevich in particular felt that industrial
design was necessarily dependent on abstract creation, that it was a

second-hand activity, which drew its being from idealized studies of


the 'contemporary environment' - such as his 'Arkhitektonics' and Ills 137-39
'Planits' - which were to act as models for a new style of architecture.
His pottery designs also are Suprematist 'ideas' of a cup or a teapot, Ills 2l6, 21 J
rather than practical designs. The working out of a practical system
of Suprematist design he left to his followers - such as Suetin. Ills 214, 215
On the other side, Tatlin and the ardently Communist Rodchenko
must become a technician; that he must learn
insisted that the artist
to use the tools and materials of modern production in order to offer
his energies directly for the benefit of the Proletariat. The artist-
engineer must build harmony in life itself, transforming work into
art, and art into work. 'Art into life!' was his slogan, and that of all

the future Constructivists - not to be interpreted in the naive


sentimental way in which the 'Wanderers' and the Abramtsevo
colony had 'taken art to the people',by idealizing the peasant and his

213
Yury Pimenov,
Give to Heavy
Industry, 1927
:

crafts as the source of life, but by utilizing and welcoming the machine.
The machine as the source of power in the modern world would

release man from labour, transforming it into art. Are not the artist
and the engineer united by the process of work? The work-process in
art and industry is alike governed by economic and technical laws;
both processes lead to a finished work, an 'object'. But whereas the
artist's creation is pursued to its completion, the engineer's 'object' is

'unfinished', it stops short at the functional. But the rationalized


process of production is common to both; it is an abstract organiza-
tion of materials. The engineer must develop his feeling for materials -
through the method of 'Material culture' - and the artist must learn
to use the tools of mechanical production. 5
I have already described in the previous chapter how Kandinsky's

programme was turned down by a majority vote in Inkhuk in 1920.


Following this came an agreement that 'pure art' and easel painting
were no longer valid preoccupations. The new ideology which now
emerged was first expressed in a 'laboratory art' programme. There
were two schools of thought in the interpretation of this new ideology
those who 'passed on' from easel painting by adopting a rationalizing,
analytical attitude to their work, but who still continued to work with
the traditional paints and canvas; and those who abandoned the
medium altogether, following Tatlin's example, to work in
'production art' - Tatlin at this point was working on the design of a
///. 230 stove which would consume the minimum fuel and give out the
maximum heat, a most justifiable occupation in those days when
houses were being torn to pieces to provide firewood. Tatlin was,
however, as always alone in his work, but his ideas were taken up and
given a Marxist interpretation by Osip Brik, Tarabukin and Alexei
Gan, not themselves artists but militant propagandists of the Proletcult
idea in Inkhuk.
The ideology governing these two schools of 'laboratory art'
became known as 'Objectism' The 'object' might equally well be a
poem, a house or a pair of shoes. An 'object' was the result of an
organized pursuit towards a utilitarian end, of the aesthetic, physical
and functional qualities of the materials involved, whose form would
emerge in the process of this pursuit.
With the crystallization of this 'Object' ideology in Inkhuk, many
of those who were hostile to it left the Institute. The Pevsner brothers

248
214, 2I 5 Suetin, two plates with Suprematist designs, c. 1920

soon left Russia altogether, developing their Constructive Idea in the


West. The elder brother Anton Pevsner went to France, Gabo went
first to Berlin, then to England and finally to America. Kandinsky,

as we have seen, studied in Moscow developing his theories, then left

for the Bauhaus. Malevich began to concentrate his activities in


Vitebsk.
No sooner had 'The Object' become defined as an ideology than a
reaction arose against it. This 'Counter-Object' movement became
known as Constructivism. Constructivism was worked out as an
ideology in Inkhuk during the summer and autumn of 1921. It
represented the change-over from the 'laboratory' stage to a pro-
gramme for active production based on the experiments of the last
four years. 'The Object' idea was dismissed as a romantic, impractical
ideology which in practice would actually lead to reaction in industry.
For the basic idea of the artist-engineer supervising the complete

216, 217 Kasimir Malevich, cup and teapot designed for the State Pottery,
Leningrad, c. 1920
process of making an object meant, of course, that the mechanization
would be reduced to a very primitive level. In actual mass-production,
work is inevitably divided up into separate departments, and no one
sees an object through from start to finish at a practical level. The new
Constructivist ideology was above all concerned with a practical
'bridge between art and industry'.
An initial step in working out this new system was to sum up the
'laboratory' experience of the last four years.
In September 1921 Rodchenko, Stepanova, Vesnin, Popova and
Exter held an exhibition in Moscow entitled '5x5 = 25' which
summed up the group's past year's work in 'laboratory art'. The
catalogue which they produced with the exhibition is revealing of the
state of mind of the time, both in the 'rationalized' descriptions of
the paintings which it listed and the catalogue in itself, which was a
charming piece of craftsmanship. I have seen two copies of this
catalogue and both contained original watercolours by each exhibitor,
as it were the signature of each artist. It is typical that the 'end of
painting' which this exhibition announced should have been so
decoratively expressed.
That this was consciously recognized as the last stand of easel
painting as an expressive medium is made clear from the artists' own
statements in this catalogue.
Rodchenko declared: 'In 19 19 at the Tenth State Exhibition for the
77/. 212 first time I declared space constructions in painting Black on Black, at
the Nineteenth State Exhibition of the following year I declared line
as a factor of construction. At this present exhibition for the first time
in art the three primary colours are declared.' The last statement was
illustrated by three canvases of 1921 entitled Pure Red Colour, Pure
Yellow Colour and Pure Blue Colour. Included in this exhibition were
77/. 1 go such works as Line Construction of 1920. There were also study-
constructions of basic geometric elements like his Construction oj
Ills 203, 219 Distance, worked out first on paper and then in materials. A little later
III. 206 Rodchenko developed his ideas in hanging mobiles, introducing the
III. 20 3 dynamic element which unites him with Tatlin (who was then
working on his Monument project), and Gabo who was working on
III. 204 his 'Kinetic models' during 1 920-1.
Stepanova declared: 'Composition is the contemplative approach
of the artist in his work. Technique and industry have confronted art

250
with the problem of construction as an active process and not a
contemplative reflection. The "sanctity" of a work as a single entity
is destroyed. The museum which was a treasury of this entity is

now transformed into an archive.' Popova contributed a series of


'experiments in painterly-force construction'. These were listed as
'space-volume', 'colour-surface', 'enclosed space construction' and
As an explanation of these works she wrote: 'All the
'space-force'.
given constructions are pictorial and must be considered simply as a
series of preparatory experiments towards materialized construc-
tions.'Exter contributed five abstract works of 1921 'which represent
part of the general programme of experiments on colour contributing
to the problem of mutual colour relationships, their mutual tensions
and rhythms and the transfer to colour-construction based on the
laws of colour itself.
Another line of experiment in this 'laboratory art' was represented
by the pupils of Tatlin and Rodchenko who worked on spatial
constructions, 'immediate studies of materials in the material itself,
in order to discover the aesthetic, physical and functional capacities
of such materials', with a particular emphasis on those used in industry.
An illustration of these ideas was the 1920 exhibition of the 'Ob-
mokhu' group - 'Society of Young Artists'.

218 Malevich teaching


pupils in the Institute of
Artistic Culture,
Leningrad, 1925

///. 220 The 'Obmokhu' exhibition showed the works of thirteen young
Vkhutemas students. They exhibited their constructions in the school
itself during May 1920. These works were mainly free-standing metal
constructions. A dominant characteristic was the dynamic urge of
these works: the spiral was a typical form. None of them was a solid
piece of 'sculpture', but open-spatial compositions 'which dynamic-
ally intersect innerand outer space'. In the following year the most
prominent of these 'Obmokhu' students, the Stenberg brothers and
Kasimir Medunetsky, had a three-man show in the Vkhutemas. 6 By
this time they had identified themselves with the Constructivists and
in the following year, in November 1922, they subscribed to the
declaration which denounced and pro-
art 'as a speculative activity'
///. 239 ceeded to work chiefly in the theatre. Together with Exter, Yakulov
///. 242 and Alexander Vesnin they were the principal designers for Tairov
and Meyerhold's revolutionary productions in the Moscow Kamerny
Theatre during the 'twenties. The Stenberg brothers' cinema and
theatrical advertisements and posters were pioneer examples of
Constructivist typography and design.
As a continuation of this rationalization of 'laboratory art', in the
autumn of 192 1 a system of lectures was begun in Inkhuk in which
artists reported on their work. Unfortunately none of these lectures

219 Alexander Rodchenko,


Construction of Distance, 1920

220 A view of the first Obmokhu-


Society of Young Artists
exhibition held in the
Vkhutemas, Moscow, in May 1920
was published, but their titles give one an idea of the ground covered
and the general direction of ideas: 'On the dialectical and analytical
method in art', 'An analysis of the conception of the object of art',
'The rhythm of space', 'The aesthetic of easel painting'.
The first lecture in this series introduces a new and important
figure to the scene. It was given in September 1921 by the architect-
painter El Lissitzky and entitled 'Prouns - a changing-trains between
painting and architecture'.
Lissitzky was an engineer by education. He had studied in Darm-
stadt during the years 1909-14. During the war he turned to architec-
ture and completed his training with an architect in Moscow. In
19 1 7 he began working with Chagall and other Jewish graphic artists
on book illustration. Their works were chiefly published in Kiev, the ///. 167
centre of the Jewish artistic avant-garde. When Chagall was appointed
Director of the Vitebsk School of Art in 1918, Lissitzky joined him
there as a professor of architecture and graphic arts and they continued
to produce books of a Cubist-Futurist style of illustration strongly
influenced also by the peasant 'lubok'. It was from this Jewish tradition
that the first post-Revolutionary experiments in typography, which
are among the first examples of 'modern' typographical design, were
done. It was here in Vitebsk in 1920 that Lissitzky designed his 'Story
7

III. 223 of Two Squares', published in Berlin in 1922, which seems to be the
developed example of the 'new typography' published in
first fully

the West.
It was in 1919 that Lissitzky painted his first Proun, after seeing the
great 'Tenth State Exhibition' of abstract painting in Moscow early
in that year. This exhibition was Lissitzky's first contact with the ideas
of Malevich and the other non-objectivist schools who exhibited on
this occasion. Lissitzky's interest in lettering was soon combined with
these new abstract compositions. A poster of his of 1919, reading
///. 226 'Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge', is an amusing illustration of
these 'leftish' artists' contribution to Bolshevik propaganda. In 1920
Lissitzky left 'Unovis', the Vitebsk school now under the leadership
of Malevich, and moved to Moscow to become a professor in the
77/. 1 6g Vkhutemas. Here he continued to work on his Prouns, which almost
from their beginning reflect a combination of both Suprematist and
Construed vist ideas. He was one of the chief channels of these ideas to
the West for he travelled a great deal in Western Europe during the
next few years - 1921-30 - visiting Germany, France, Holland and
Switzerland, where he came in contact with all the chief personalities
of 'the modern movement', working not only in the field of typo-
Ills 22 j, 228 graphy, but in exhibition and poster design, developing his method
according to this synthesis of Constructivist and Suprematist principles.

221 Lev Bruni,


Construction, 191
222 Pyotr Miturich,
Construction No. 18,
1920

223 Kasimir Medunetsky,


Construction No. 357, 19 19

HI
ppM '

LZ-^.

H
K^l 224 Pyotr Miturich,
Construction, 1920
1 l^Hi>"

p *
r
2

# aJ l'

Before describing the development of this synthesis in industrial


design and his role
as a channel of communication between Russia and

the West we need to return to 1921 to trace the development of


Constructivism in theory and practice.
Another of the lectures given in Inkhuk, in December 1921, was by
Varvara Stepanova, who spoke 'On Constructivism'. This is interest-
ing as an indication of the point at which the term 'Constructivism'
was acknowledged by the artists to describe their ideas. At first this

ideology had simply been called 'production art'. The term 'Con-
structivism' is said, as is the usual way with 'isms', to have been
invented by an art critic.
The various contemporary statements by the artists themselves on
Constructivism are for the most part incoherent, doctrinaire, an
unco-ordinated series of slogans: 'Art is dead! Art is as dangerous
. . .

as religion as an escapist activity. . . . Let us cease our speculative


activity [painting pictures] and take over the healthy bases of art -
colour, line, materials and forms - into the field of reality, of practical
construction.' These phrases are quoted from the first important
publication of the group's ideology - Constructivism by Alexei Gan,

256
Kpa
"
8 9 10

22$ The Story of Two Squares. A book often pages invented and designed by
El Lissitzky, printed in 1922. Lissitzky also did a Dutch version for the periodical
De Stijl

1. About 2 Squares. El Lissitzky


2. To all, to Fellows
all Young
3. El Lissitzky: Suprematist story about Two Squares
A
in 6 Constructions: Berlin, Sky then, 1922
4. Do not read Take Paper : Fold
Blocks Colour
Pieces of wood. .Construct . .

5.
Here are Two Squares
6. Flying towards the Earth from far away and
7. and see Black Chaos
8.
Crash all is scattered
9. and on the Black was established Red Clearly
10. Thus it ends further

published in Tver in 1922. The ideas in this book, by a future leading


Constructivist typographer and apologist of the movement, are
expressed as much wording Gan has strung one
in the layout as in the :

or two staccato phrases banner-wise across a page, making free use ot


heavy underlining bars, and he has juxtaposed different types, serif
and sans-serif, to punch a point home. If one wishes to look for a more

257
226 El Lissitzky, Street Poster,
1919-20. Beat the Whites with
the Red Wedge

preciseand reasoned explanation of Constructivism, one has to turn


Mayakovsky, the theorists Osip Brik and Boris
to the poets, such as
Kushner in the magazine Lef or to Vsevelod Meyerhold the actor-
producer whose theory of 'Bio-mechanics' is an adaptation of
Constructivist principles to the theatre.
In Constructivism the emphasis throughout is on technique which
was to replace 'style' of any kind.

The material formation of the object is to be substituted for its

aesthetic combination. The object is to be treated as a whole, and


thus will be of no discernible 'style' but simply a product of an
industrial order like a car, an aeroplane and such like. Constructivism
is a purely technical mastery and organization of materials on three
principles
a. the tectonic (act of creation),
b. the factura (manner of creation),
c. the construction.

Ills 255, 256 This manifesto was published in the first number of Lej, the Con-
structivists' organ, in 1923.

227 El Lissitzky designed pull-out folder for the catalogue to the Soviet
this
section of the International Press Exhibition held in Cologne in 1930. It represents
the interior of the pavilion, for the organization of which he was responsible
228 A section of the Berlin
1923 Russian exhibition whose
arrangement was devised by
Lissitzky on a dynamic basis of
integrating the rooms with the
works exposed

From this time date the first attempts on the part of these erstwhile
abstract artists to devote themselves to practical, industrial design.
Tatlin was by far the most uncompromising in his interpretation of
these ideals and he was the only one of these artists who actually
entered a factory - the Lessner metallurgical factory near Petrograd -
in an attempt to become an 'artist-engineer'. Popova and Stepanova
did, however, go and work in a textile factory, the Tsindel, near
Moscow, where they designed fabrics. Rodchenko began co-
operating with Mayakovsky on poster-propaganda work and
developing a Constructivist method of design in typography,
introducing photography as an expressive medium.
The activities of the Constructivists now had the backing of the
efficient Proletcult organization, which provided them with regular
work and a livelihood through its contacts with industry.
The Proletcult had early set about making contact with trade union
organizations, and now under nep the scheme gained added impetus.
Artists began designing emblems, stamps, slogans, posters: by the Ills 231, 232
early 'twenties they were creating workers' clubs in which every- Hi 235
thing from the tables and chairs to the slogans on the walls and the
light-fittings were designed in a Constructivist style. It is interesting
to note the constant geometrical basis for these designs. The use of an
ideal proportion is a characteristic of Constructivist design and in this
differs so radically from the functional 'New Life' system of design
///. 234 which Tatlin was evolving during the 'twenties.
It is important to distinguish between the work of the main body

of Constructivists and that of Tatlin. Tatlin designed workers' clothes


which would allow the maximum movement and warmth with the
///. 270 minimum weight and material; and a stove, likewise answering in its
design as closely as possible to the functional requirements.

The Constructivists worked in materials, but in an abstract fashion,


as aformal problem mechanically applying technique to their art.
Constructivism did not take into account the organic relation
between the material and the tensile capacity, its working character.
Essentially it is only as an outcome of the dynamic force resulting
from these mutual relations that a vitally inevitable form is born. 7
Tatlin worked very with the Constructivists, although they
little

came closest to his own This was typical of his character, for
ideas.
Tatlin always chose to work apart with a few chosen disciples, rather
than with a general group. One of his pupils at the Vkhutein 8 in the
and afterwards a trusted assistant on the Letatlin glider
late 'twenties,
on which Tatlin worked during the 'thirties, describes how Tatlin
became distrustful of people to the point of madness and would never
show anyone his work, having a horror of being imitated or made
use of.
Tatlin took organic forms as the basis of his design. The natural
movement and measure of man dictated his design; whereas the
Constructivists, like the Dutch 'de Stijl' group, demanded that man
should be moulded in Futurist fashion to an arbitrary geometric

229
Varvara Stepanova,
Textile design,
1922-4
proportion. Rodchenko's furniture design, for all his talk of con- ///. 236
tinning the material in its logical inherent pattern, is not so much a

discovered form in the material as a bending of the material to a basic


idea. His chairs are no more 'functional' than their predecessors, but
simply the conventional form stripped bare - no new examination of
the nature of a chair. This was far more the concern and field of
inquiry pursued by Tatlin in his teaching, during the years 1927-31,
at the Vkhutemas (which became 'Vkhutein' in 1925 - 'Higher
Technical Institute', the 'production art' idea having fallen into
disgrace). In 193 1 this school was liquidated and reorganized in
,

common with all other artistic organizations, under a central Party


230 This newspaper cutting was headed Tatlin' s New Way of Life. We
see
the artist himself modelling the 'Functional' worker's outfit he has designed
with cut-out patterns included. The stove was one specially designed by Tatlin
in the hard days of 1918-19 to consume the minimum of fuel while giving
maximum heat
231 A memorial stamp to
commemorate Lenin's death,
designed by Nathan Altman, 1924

n OH TA
233 A teapot designed by a pupil of
Tatlin's in the Moscow Vkhutein

232 Nathan Altman, design for a


stamp, 1922

234 Vladimir Tatlin, a tubular steel


chair with rubber moulded seat,
c. 1927
235 Design by Alexander
Rodchenko for a Worker's
Club, exhibited at the Paris
Exhibition of Decorative Arts,
1925

236 Examples of multi-purpose


furniture and clothing
designed under Rodchenko at the
Moscow Vkhutemas, 1918-27
control, where Tatlin was head of the ceramic department and also
taught furniture and general design.
In contrast to Tatlin's practical approach, the militant Con-
structivists' doctrinaireapproach was not a fruitful one in the field of
practical design. Their ideas were more all-embracing and led
naturally to architecture, but this unfortunately was doomed to
remain a paper-dream due to the economic distress of the country. It
was not until the late 'twenties that it became possible to build more
than exhibition stands or realize other than the most modest projects,
such as Melnikov's design for a pavilion which housed the Soviet
///. 23 7 contribution at the Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts in 1925. In
this pavilion, the exhibits were dominated by the work of the
Constructivists, and were far more radical than those of other
countries, including Germany. The only obvious memorial to these
early days of Constructivism actually realized in 1924 is Lenin's
Mausoleum in the Red Square in Moscow. This was designed by
Shchusev and was first built in wood, a material almost more precious
than any during those days; later it was rebuilt in red granite. Few
of the astonishingly pioneering projects of the Constructivist archi-

237 Konstantin Melnikov,


The Soviet Pavilion at the
Paris Exhibition of
Decorative Arts, 1925

238 Ilya Golossov, Club


of the Znev Commune
Members, c. 1926
tectswere actually built, for building on any scale became an economic
possibility only in the latter 1920s; by the mid-i930s Constructivism
was officially out of favour since the establishment of the dogma of
Socialist Realism in 1932 by the Communist Party. In architecture
as in all fields of design, this style was opposed to experiment and

adopted the most conservative formulae - perhaps in reaction to the


intense research of these years before. In the pictorial field 'Socialist
Realism' took the 'Wanderers' as a model for architecture it advocated
;

a return to the classical style.


Deprived at first of their natural field of exploration in architecture,
the Constructivists turned to the theatre and to propaganda industrial
design. The theatre provided the best opportunity for realizing their
highly mechanized Utopia, so pathetically at odds with the physical
circumstances around them. Tairov, the Director of the Kamerny
Theatre, was one of their most enthusiastic supporters, and had
already employed a number of these would-be Constructivists before
the Revolution in highly successful productions. After the Revolution
he continued the partnership with Alexandra Exter and Yakulov.
The latter artist's last work was a Constructivist set for Diaghilev's
ballet Le Pas d'Acier. Tairov was the first to employ an architect to Ills 240, 241
design his sets, when he invited Alexander Vesnin to design Claudel's
L' Annonce faite a Marie in 1920 and Phedre in 1922. This strengthened
the idea of the theatre being a part of everyday life, dealing with
239 Scene from Romeo and Juliet with sets and
costumes by Alexandra Exter. Produced in 1921

240, 241 A maquette of the and costumes designed by


set
Georgy Yakulov produced by
for the ballet Le Pas d'Acier
Diaghilev in 1927, and a scene from the production
242 Alexander Vesnin,
stage set for
Chesterton's play, The
Man who was Thursday,
produced in the Moscow
Kamerny Theatre in 1923

243 Lissitzky's model of his design for Sergei Tretyakov's / want a child,
1929, for Meyerhold's unrealized production.
everyday problems in everyday language, in an everyday surround-
ing, where the distance between actors and the audience was practi-
cally removed. It led eventually to the 'theatre in the round',, idea
evolved by Meyerhold and Okhlopkov in the late 'twenties. Con-
versely, this drawing of architects into the field of theatre and the
vortex of ideas of the Constructivists was of immense importance;
it led to the abrupt arrival of Russian architecture at the forefront of
European design, a field in which they had been notably behindhand
up till 191 7.
Vsevelod Meyerhold, the theatrical director trained under Stani-
slavsky, was a leading Constructivist after the Revolution. His
theory of 'Bio-mechanics' 9 was the application of Constructivist
ideas in the theatre. A number of Constructivist artists worked for
Meyerhold's theatre: Stepanova designed the sets for The Death of
Ills 244, 2 45 Tarelkin in 1922, and Liubov Popova for The Magnanimous Cuckold
in the same year. Constructivism achieved its most complete realization
in these theatrical productions, and in Sergei Eisenstein's early films.
The theory of Constructivism was not only an aesthetic but a
philosophy of life. It affected not only man's environment but man
himself. Man was to be the king of this new world, but a robot-king.

244 Varvara Stepanova. Stage set for The Death of Tarelkin produced by
Meyerhold in Moscow in 1922
This Utopia envisaged a world in which art was no longer a dream-
world to which the working man retired for relaxation and to regain
his balance, but became the very stuff of his life.
Those of the Construed vists who sought most consciously to
become artist-engineers found the fields of typographical and poster
design to be the most fruitful. Here it was possible for the artist to make
use of the most modern processes and skills and yet not to reduce the
result to the level of the machine - as was inevitable in mass-production
where industrialization, even at this point in Russia, demanded
standardization. Thus Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Klutsis and Alexei Gan -
who was largely the theorist of the group - worked out pioneer
examples of modern typographical design. Rodchenko and Gan's Ills 253, 254
work is the more purely Constructivist in principle the predominance
:

of the horizontal; the use of very heavy, square sans serif type; the
Futurist machine quality. It is here that El Lissitzky's design combines
Constructivist and Suprematist principles, and as such comes closest
to creating the synthesis which we still recognize as 'modern'
design. He uses the dynamic axis and the characteristic asym-
metry of Suprematism and he often weights the design at the top -
;

characteristic of so many of Malevich's Suprematist paintings. He

245 Luibov Popova. Stage set for The Magnanimous Cuckold. Meyerhold
Theatre, Moscow, 1922
I Pill

MJL

JWt

246 El Lissitzky. A double page from the first edition of For Reading Out Loud
by Mayakovsky, published in 1923

also, in his use of photo-montage, introduced the regular machine-


rhythm of Constructivism.
Rodchenko and Lissitzky both incorporated photography into their
typographical designs. Rodchenko's first printed photo-montage
dates from 1923 when he illustrated Mayakovsky's anthology of
poems About This. 10 Lissitzky and Rodchenko were responsible for
doing the design and layout for most of the first editions of Maya-
kovsky's poetry published during the post-Revolutionary period.
///. 246 Lissitzky's design for For Reading Out Loud of 1923 is perhaps his
finest pieceof typography Rodchenko worked in close co-operation
;

Ills 233, 2 $6 with Mayakovsky on Lef, the organ of the Constructivists which ran
from 1923 to 1925 and then in 1927-8 under the title of Novii Lef (New
Left). This is probably his most important work, not only for the
layout and the covers which he designed, but also for its inclusion of
examples of his creative photography, although this is now difficult
to appreciate, especially in reproduction, because of the poor quality

270
of the paper on which the magazine isphotography
printed. In his
Rodchenko likewise worked out method. It has affi-
a Constructivist
nities with that of Dziga Vertov of 'Camera-Eye' and 'Kino-Pravda'
documentary film fame, and with Sergei Eisenstein - for example, in
the catching of movement at its height, the moment of maximum
drama, obtained by a typically Constructivist low-angled shot.
Constructivism, unlike Suprematism, was essentially concerned
with the social role of art; in many tenets it echoes the nineteenth-
century 'Wanderers' - in the common disdain for 'art for art's sake'
condemned by the 'Wanderers' as a 'dishonest occupation not worthy
of a thinking man', and by the Constructivists as 'speculative activity'
to be replaced by 'socially directed art-work'. 11 Both movements
demanded that artists should concern themselves with reality 'a
hundred times more beautiful than art', proclaimed Chernishevsky;
'The proletarian revolution is not a whipping cry but a real whip
which from real life
chases out the parasitical tearing oneself from
. . .

speculative activity, one must find the way to real work, applying
one's knowledge and skill to the real, live and expedient work'. 12 Both

247 The Stenberg Brothers. Poster design for Dziga Ventov's film The
Elet'ctith, 1928

248 Klutsis, poster for first Five Year Plan: Let us fulfil the plan ofgreat works, 1930
249 A cover design by Yuri Annenkov,
1922

250 El Lissitzky. Cover of the


international Constructivist magazine of
the arts edited by Lissitzky and Ilya
Ehrenburg in Berlin in 1922

251 El Lissitzky, cover design for


Elephants in the Komsomol by
Mayakovsky, published Moscow 1929

1929

BJMAHMHP MflflHOBCHHK
r 2 MAnHOBCKMM
f

252 Cover design by Lavinsky to the


anthology of Mayakovsky's work
entitled 13 Years of Work. Volume 2,
IvieS
published 1922

253 Alexei Gan, cover design, 1927


gPABO:
254 Alexander Rodchenko, cover
design to an anthology of
Mayakovsky's poetry entitled No.
1927
S,
4TM TON 2

2CA MAHHOBCKMH

1927
COBPEMEHHAR
APXMTEKTyPA
ARCHITEKTUR
DERGECENWART
^ARCHITECTURE
CONTEMPORAINE EC
CPEflEPflUMfl

iptwatNiim.* rociw*citHoi NiMTCflfcCTM


movements led to extreme attacks on art itself 'which by its very
nature cannot be dissociated from religion and philosophy . . . we
uncompromising war on art!' 13 declared the Constructivists.
declare
The famous discussion of the 1860s by Dobroliubov, one of the
prominent aesthetic philosophers of the nationalist movement,
entitled 'Shakespeare or a pair of boots?' echoes down the years and is
caught up again by these Constructivists. 'Neither to the right, nor to
the left, but to the needed.' 14
Constructivism continued to be evolved as a working method
throughout the 'twenties in Russia, and during this period linked up
with the sympathetic movements in Western Europe. Contacts with
Russia had been resumed in 1921 with the lifting of the economic
blockade imposed by the Allies. Proof of this was a talk given in
Inkhuk by the art critic Kemeny, who came from Berlin for the
occasion. The lecture was entitled: 'On new directions in contem-
porary Russian and German art'. In the same year Lissitzky left for
Germany. The following year he and Ilya Ehrenburg, who had
accompanied him, edited a magazine VeshchjGegenstandjObjet (there
were three numbers of this magazine, the second two produced
together) which propounded the 'object' aesthetic of Inkhuk of the

previous year, and brought together those parallel ideas which had
arisen independently of one another all over Europe: those of the
Jeanneret brothers' 'Esprit Nouveau' Paris group, of the Dutch 'de
Stijl' - Rodchenko's school of Constructivism - and those
so close to
of the various non-objectivist Russian schools. This was the first
post-war, multi-lingual, international magazine of the visual arts to
unite the ideas and personalities which created the international
functionalist school of design.
The most important mark of the return of Russia to the European
artistic scene was the great exhibition of abstract art organized in the

Van Diemen Gallery in Berlin in 1922, which later went also to


Amsterdam. This exhibition summed up the history of the modern
movement in Russian art, including as it did work by artists from the
'World of Art' of the 1 890s up to the very latest Constructivists. It was
the first notice the West was given of the schools of Russian abstract
painting which had developed during the long period of isolation
since the outbreak of war in 1914. This exhibition remains by far the
most important and the only comprehensive exhibition of Russian
abstract art to have been seen in the West. Not only was the content
of this exhibition revolutionary, but also its presentation. El Lissitzky

" t. i*? ST!

yHe<t>a napa rnaa


n to cnepeAM,

..Ka3afl.

opyr
a He C38ft.
ocaflH"
Ha Mac
k
paa AecHTt. na neHi.

HenoBopoT/iMBan uora;
rpoMOH yjTieoa pot
255, 256 Cover design and a page
Hauie fteno
from the magazine LEF by
anep&A uiaraTb
m rnaaem* Alexander Rodchenko, 1923. This
H 3B3Tb unepepi- cover is one of the earliest and
perhaps the most important piece of
Constructivist typographical design
for it is not only a cover-design with
carefully constructed letters, but uses the
new ideas in reproductive processes
such as photo-montage and over-printing
///. 228 managed to get permission to design the interior of the gallery and
arrange the works : in his organization of this exhibition he directly
introduced the ideas which Tatlin and Yakulov had first applied in
the Moscow Cafe Pittoresque, of using the wall space as a positive
entity, an idea which Lissitzky so brilliantly further developed in his
design for the Hanover Gallery room of abstract art for Alexander
Dorner in 1926, and in the Soviet pavilions of so many international
exhibitions during the 'twenties and early 'thirties, where he worked
///. 22 j out a pioneer system of exhibition techniques, using photo-montage.
Conversely, through periodicals such as SA (Soviet Architecture) 15

the work which was going on in the West was introduced into Russia.
This magazine published work and articles by Le Corbusier, Frank
Lloyd Wright, Gropius and the 'de Stijl' group; it also discussed such
things as the use of colour in interior design, its psychological and
optical qualities. Later came Arkhitektura SSSR of 1933-6, which is
particularly interesting for its articles dealing with the 'for and
against' of Constructivist and functionalist architecture; it published
most of the buildings of both these styles in Russia, including works
by foreign architects such as the Centrsoyuz building of 1929,
designed by Le Corbusier and built in Moscow. Many foreign
architects came to Russia; for instance, the Dutch architect Mart Stam
who worked on the Magnitogorsk project in Kazakhstan. For, as in
Russia itself, so all over Western Europe artists were fired by the
experiment of Communism which was so courageously being worked
out there; from all over Western Europe artists looked to Russia for
the realization of their new vision', for in Communism they saw the
answer to the sad isolation of the artist from society which the capitalist
economy had introduced. In Russia, under this new-born regime,
they felt a great experiment was being made in which, for the first time
since the Middle Ages, the artist and his art were embodied in the
make-up of the common life, art was given a working job, and the
artist considered a responsible member of society.

276
1

Text References
CHAPTER I 6. Nikolai Ryaboushinsky (ed.) Zolotoye R11110,
Moscow, 1906-9
i. N. Chernishevsky, Esteticheskie otnosheniya
7. Ya. A. Tugenkhold 'Frantzuskoyc sobranie
iskusstva k deistritclnosti
S. Shchukina', Apollon, No. 1-2, 1914.
I.
2. N. Polcnova, Ambramtsevo. I 'ospominaniya,
Includes complete list of works in collection
illus., Moscow, 1922
X. see: Alfred Barr Jr, Matisse. His art and his
3. S. Yarcmich, Mikhail Alcxandroi'ich Vrubel.
Zhizti i tvorchestvo. illus., Moscow, iyn
public, New York, 195
9. quoted in: 'Le chemin dc la couleur', Art
4.I. Zabelin, Materiali dlya istorii ikonopisi po
Present, No. 2, 1947
arkhivnim dokumentam, 1850, and D. Rovinsky,
Obozrenie ikonopisania v Rossii do kontsa 1 7-ovo 10. Zolotoye Runo, No. 6, Moscow, 1909
I'cka 1 1. see: ref. no. 8.

5. M. Voloshin, 'Surikov (Matcnali dlya 12. Makovsky, 'Frantzuskoyc sobranie I.


S.
biografn)', Apollon, 19 16, No. 6/7, pp. 40-63 A. Morosova', Apollon, No. 2, 1912. Includes
6.Vrubel in a letter to his sister, May 1890, complete list of works in collection to date
quoted in ref. no. 3 13. F. Filosofov, 'Mir Iskusstva tozhc tendent-

7. ibid.
sia', Zolotoye Runo, No. 1, Moscow, 1908
14. N. Taravati, review of first salon of the
8. ibid. pp. 80-86
'Golden Fleece', Zolotoye Runo, No. 3,
9. ibid. pp. 31-33
Moscow, 1906
CHAPTER II
15. N. Miliuti, 'O. Soyuze', Zolotoye Runo,
No. 1, 1908
1. see: a Alexandre Benois, Vozniknouenie
16. S.Makovsky, 'Golubaya Rosa', Zolotoye
'Mira Iskusstva', Leningrad, 1928
Runo, No. 5, 1907
b Alexandre Benois, Reminiscences of the
17. ibid.
Russian Ballet, transl. Mary Bntnieva, London,
1941 18. Introduction to Zolotoye Runo Katalog
Vuistauki Kartin, 1909
2. ibid. : a
19. see: ref. no. 8
3. Richard Muther, Geschichte der Malerei im

XIX. Jahrhundcrt to which Benois contri- 20. see: ref. no. 18

buted the chapter on Russian art. Munich, 21. see: Color and Rhyme, No. 31, 1956, p. 19,
1893-4 col. 3

4. A.J. Meier-Grafe, Modern Art, 2 vols., 1908 22. Zolotoye Runo, No. 7/9, Moscow, 1908,
5. see: ref. no. \a pp. 5-66

6. ibid. 23. Zolotoye Runo, No. 10, Moscow, 1908,


pp. 5-66
7. ibid.
24. Zolotoye Runo, No. 2J}, Moscow, 1909,
8. see: Prince Peter Lieven, The Birth of
Ballets-Russes, London, 1936 PP- 3-30
25. K. S. Petrov-Vodkin, Khiliuovsk, Lenin-
CHAPTER III
grad, 1930, and the sequel Prostransti'o Ei'klida,
1932
1. S. Polyakov (ed.) Vesi, Moscow, 1904-9
2. P. Pertsov (ed.) Noi'i put, St Petersburg,
CHAPTER IV
1906-7 1. see: Graziella Lehrmann, De Marinetti a

3. Alexandre Benois (ed. 1903), A. Prakhov Maiakoi'ksi, Zurich, 1942


(ed. 1904-7), Khudozhestvennoye Sokrovische 2. see: Nikolai Khardzhev 'Mayakovsky i

Rossii, St Petersburg, 190 1-7 zhivopis' in Mayakovsky. Materiali i issledo-

4.P. P. Veiner (ed.) Stariyegodi, St Petersburg, vania, Moscow, 1940, and Russkoye Slovo,
1907-16 No. 84, Moscow, 1914
5. Sergei Makovsky (ed.) Apollon, St Peters- 3. sec: Randa, Vecher, St Petersburg, 8 March
burg, 1909-17 1909

277
4. These were the programme headings for CHAPTER VI
the first part of a lecture entitled: Having conic
1. Pobeda nad solntsem, Futuristicheskaya
see:
myself by Mayakovsky, given on 24 March
opera. Kruchenikh, Matiushina 1 Malevicha,
I9I3-
Moscow, 1913
5. see: ref no. 1

Apollon, No.
2. see:K. Malevich, O novikh sistemakh v
6. see: 3, 1914
iskusstve, Vitebsk, 1920
7. see: Kathenne Dreier, Burlink, New York,
3. ibid.
1944, p. 66
4. see: Alexander Tairov, Das Entjesselte
8. Ludwig Gewaesi, 'V Mire Iskusstva' in
Theater, Potsdam, 1923
Zolotoye Rwio, No. 2/3, Moscow, 1909,
5. Posmertnaya vuistavka Khudozhnika-
pp. 119-20
Konstruktora Popov oi. Katalog, Moscow, 1924
9. E. Nisen O Kubisme, St Petersburg,
(transl.),

M. Voloshin (transl.), O Kubisme, 6.'Khudozhestvennaya Kronika' in Apollon,


1913;
Moscow, 191 3; extracts also published with No. 1, 1917, p. 37
commentary in Soynz Molodezhi, Sbornik, 7. ibid.
No. 3, St Petersburg, 191 8. Nikolai Punin, 'V Moskve. O novikh
10. see: Lanonov, Luchism, Moscow, 191 khudozhestvennikh gruppirovkakh', Iskusstvo
11. Benedict Livshits, Polutoraglazii Strelets, Kommuni, No. 10, 9 November 1919
Moscow, 1932 9. See: V. Kamensky, Put entusiasta, 193

12. see: Kathenne Dreier, Burlink, New York,


1944, p. 59 CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER V 1. Quotation from Kasimir Malevich's mani-


1. N. Khardzhev, 'Mayakovsky izhivopis'
see: festo published in Desyataya Gosudarstvennaya

inMayakovsky. Matcriaii isslcdovania, Mos- i


Vuistavka. Bespredmetnoye tvorchestvo

cow, 1940, p. 358. Suprematism. Katalog, Moscow, 1919

2. Lanonov he chose this title for


recalls that 2. 'Nasha predstoyashchaya rabota. V. E.
his exhibition because of a story he had read Tatlin i dr. in Vllloi S'ezd Sovetov. Ezhednevnii
in a newspaper of a group of French painters Bulletin S'czda, No. 13, 1921, p. 11

who tied a brush to a donkey's tail and placed 3. Quotation from Kasimir Malevich, O
it tail-wise in front of a prepared canvas. The novikh sistemakh v iskusstve, Vitebsk, 1920
result was said to have been exhibited at the
4. ibid.
following public salon and to have received
5. 'Meeting ob iskusstve' in Iskusstvo Kommuni,
serious attention from a number of eminent
No. 1, 7 December 1918
critics before its origin was unmasked.
6. ibid.
3. from Malevich's unpublished biography
7. I am indebted to Bertold Lubetkin, the
4. sec: Oslinni Khvost i Mishcn, Moscow, 191
Constructivist architect, for this description.
5. On the back of one of his paintings, The He personally took part in this pageant and
Violin and the Cow, 1911, Malevich wrote was one of the smash-and-grab raid party
'The alogical collusion of two forms, the on the electrician's store.
violin and the cow, illustrates the moment of
8. see: a poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky,
struggle between logic, the natural law,
Order to the Army of Art (Prikaz Armii
bourgeois sense and prejudice, (signed) K.
Iskusstva)
Malevich, 191 1.'
9. see: Iskusstvo Kommuni, No. 18, 7 April
6. Vyacheslav Zavahshin, Early Soviet
see:
1919
Writers, New York, 1958, for a comparison of
Bcly's and Malevich's work and ideas. 10. see: Iskusstvo Kommuni, No. 7, 9 January
1919
7. G. Habasque, 'Les documents inedits
see:
sur les debuts de Suprematisme' in Aujourd'hui 11. sec: ref. no. 2

art et architecture, No. 4, 1955. 12.N. Punin, 'O pamyatnikakh' in Iskusstvo

8. Quoted from Tatlin's statement in Vuistavka Kommuni, No. 14, 9 March 19 19


rabot zasluzhennovo deyatelya iskusstv V. E. 13. 'Spisok museev sobranii organizovannikh
i

Tatlina. Katalog, Moscow, 1932 Museinim Bureau Otdela IZO N.K.P.' in

278
1 8 8

Vestnik Otdcla IZO Narkomprosa, No. i, 2. sec: Gom, No. 1, Moscow, 1922

1 92 3. see: Argonavti, Moscow, 1923


14. Pravda, 24 November 191 4. see: E.J. Brown, The Proletarian Episode in

15. Iskusstvo Kommuni, No. 1, 7 December Russian Literature, 1928-1912, New York,
1918 1953
'V
16. Kollegii po dclam lskusstva 5. see: Alexei Gan, Konstruktivism, Tver, 1922
i khudozhestvennoi promuishlcnnosti. 6. 'Vuishic Khudozhestvenniye Tekhni-
Muzcinii vopros' in Iskusstvo Kommuni, No. 8, cheskiye Masterskiye' (The Higher Artistic
:

19 November 19 19 Technical Studios)


17. see: Zhizn Iskussti>a, No. 20, 1923
7. Quotation from a statement by Tatlin in
18. Iskusstvo Kommuni, No. 4, October iy 1
his exhibition catalogue: I'uistavka rabot
19. see: Iskusstvo Kommuni, No. 1, 7 December zasluzhetwovo deyatelya iskusstv V . E. Tatlina.
1918 Katalog, Moscow, 1932.
20. Quoted
from: Gabo. Constructions, 8. The Vkhutemas became the 'Vkhutein'
Drawings Engravings. Lund
Sculpture, Paintings, (Higher Technical Institute) in 1928
Humphries, London, 1957. 'Russia and
Constructivism. An interview with Naum 9.For an explanation of Meyerhold's theory
Gabo by Abram Lassaw and Ilya Bolotowsky, of 'Bio-mechanics' see: Huntley Carter,
1956' The new spirit in the Russian theatre, 1917-
1928, New York, London, Paris, 1929
21. Programma Instituta Khudozhestvennoi
Kulturi, IZO Narkomprosa, Moscow, 1920 10. For
explanation of Rodchenko's
an
22. see: lskusstva, 1923. 'Zhurnal Rossiiskoi
work design see: Camilla
in Constructivist

Akademh Khudozhcstvennickh nauk' Gray, 'Alexander Rodchenko. A Constructi-

2}. reproduced: Gabo, London, 1957. bibl.


vist designer', Portfolio, London, New York,
1962
24. see: ref. no. 20
11. see: Alexei Gan, Konstruktivism, Tver,
25. 'Uchilishche novovo iskusstva'
1922
26. These charts were included in the exhibi-
of Malevich's work which toured 12. ibid.
tion
Europe; in London this exhibition was held 13. ibid.
at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in October
14. Tatlin quoted in: S. Isakov, 'Khudozhniki
1959-
1 revoliutsia' in Zhizn lskusstva. No. 22,
27. see: Bibliography
5 June 1923
15. A. A. Vcsnin and M. Ya. Ginsburg,
CHAPTER VIII
S.A. Sovetskaya Aikhitektina, Moscow,
1. see: Sidorov (cd.), Literaturniye manifesti 1925-9

279
Selected Bibliography
GENERAL WORKS J. Gregor, Das russische Theater, 1927
Alexandre Benois, History of Russian painting, W. R. Fuerst and S. J. Hume, Twentieth
New York, 19 16 (English translation of century stage decoration, 1928
Istoriya Russkoi Zhivopisi v XIX veke, St G. Kepes, Language of vision, New York, 1944
Petersburg, 1902)
V. Erlich, Russian Formalism, The Hague,
Louis Reau, L' Art russe de Pierre le Grand a nos 1955
jours, 1922. 2 vols. bibl.
Vyacheslav Zavalishin, Early Soviet Writers,
Richard Muther, Geschichte der Malerei irn New York, 1958
XIX. Jahrhnndert, Munich, 1893-4 (Chapter
E.J. Brown, The Proletarian Episode in Russian
on Russian art by Alexandre Benois)
Literature, 1928-1932, New York, 1953
Alfred Barr Jr, Cubism and Abstract Art, New
York, 1936. bibl.
L. Trotsky, Literature and revolution, New
York, 1925
El Lissitzky and Hans Arp, Die Knnstismen,
Zurich, 1925 L. Moholy-Nagy, I ision in motion, New
York, 1947
Louis Lozowick, Modern Russian Art, New
York, 1925 O. M. Sayler, The Russian theatre under the
Revolution, New York, London, 1922
Andre Salmon, Art russe moderne, Paris, 1928
Konstantin Umansky, Neue Kunst in Russland
A. Voyce, Russian architecture, New York,
1914-1919, Munich, 1920. bibl. 1948

L. Moholy-Nagy, Von Material zu Architektur, Film form ; The film sense. Essays in film theory
Munich, 1929. (English translation: The new by Sergei Eisenstein. Edited and translated by
vision; from material to architecture. New York,
'
Jay Leyda, New York, 1947
1938) Huntley Carter, The new spirit in the Russian
L. Moholy-Nagy and Kassak, Buch der
L. theatre, 1917-1928, London, New York,
nener Kiinstler, Vienna, 1922 (almost entirely Pans, 1929
illustration material) Huntley Carter, The new theatre and cinema of
Collection of the Societe Anotiyme: Museum of Soviet Russia, 1917-1923, London, 1924
Modern Art, 1920. Yale University Art Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Igor
Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1950.
Stravinsky Memories and Commentaries, Lon-
bibl.
don, i960
Erste russische Kimstausstelliing. Catalogue. Kurt London, The seven Soviet arts, London,
Berlin, 1922. Introduction by D. Sterenberg 1937
A. Dorner, The way beyond art, New York, M. D. Calvocoressi and G. Abraham, Masters
1947 of Russian Music, London, 1936
A. Behne, Von Kunst zur Gestaltung, Berlin, G. E. Abraham, On Russian Music, London,
1925 1939
C. G. Holme, Art in the USSR, The Studio, E. Lo Gatto, Storia della letteratura russa, Rome,
Special No., 1935 i960
G. K. Lukomskij, History of modern Russian Ernest Simmons (ed.), Through the glass oj
J.
London, 1945
painting, Soviet literature. Views of Russian society, New
G. H. Hamilton, The art and architecture of York, 1953
Russia, London, 1945 G. Struve, Twenty-five years of Soviet Russian
literature, 1918-1943, London, 1944
BACKGROUND WORKS G. Struve, Soviet Russian literature, 1917-1950,
Alexander Tairov, Das Entfesselte Theater, Oklahoma, 195 1. bibl.
Potsdam, 1923 G. Reavey, Soviet literature today, London,
Jan Tschichold, Die neue Typographie, 1928 1946; New Haven, 1947
Jay Leyda, Kino. A history of the Russian and C. Frioux, Maiakovski par lui-meme, Paris,
Soviet film, London, i960 196

280
D. Magarshack (cd.), Stanislavsky on the art of debuts de Suprematisme', Aujourd'hui: an et

the stage, London, 1950 architecture, No. 4, 1955


K. Stanislavsky, My life in art, Boston, Kasimir Malevich, Die gegenstandslose Welt,
London, 1924 Munich, 1927. (English translation from this
I.Ehrenburg, People and Life. Memoirs of German translation published as: The Non-
objective World, Chicago, i960)
1891-1917. English translation by A. Bostock
and Y. Kapp. London, 1961 M. Chagall, Ma vie, Paris, 193 1

Boris Pasternak, Safe Conduct, London, 1959 Julien Alvard, 'Les Idecs de Malevitch.' Art
d' Aujourd'hui, No. 5, July 1953
A. M. Ripellino, Majakovskij e H teatro russo
d'avanguardia, Turin, 1965
ART AND REVOLUTION AND
NATIONALIST MOVEMENT CONSTRUCTIVISM
S. K. Makovsky, Talachkino. L' Art decoratif R. Fiilop-Miller, The mind and face of Bol-
des ateliers de la Princesse Tenicheva, St Peters- shevism, London, 1927
burg, 1906
'G' (magazine), cd. GrarT, Kiesler, van der
M. D. Calvocoressi, Moussorgsky, London, Rohe, Richter. Berlin, 1923-6
1946 'ABC (magazine), ed. Stam, Witwer,
F. Chalyapin, Man and mask, London, 1932 Lissitzky. Basle, 1925

G. E. Abraham, Rimski-Korsakov. A short N. Gabo, 'The concepts of Russian art".


biography, London, 1945 World Review, London, 1942
El Lissitzky, Russland. Die Rekonstruktion der
WORLD OF ART AND SYMBOLISM Architektur in der Soivjetunion, Vienna, 1930
Prince Peter Lieven, The Birth oj'Ballets-Russes, Jan Topass, 'Arfiche en URSS'. Arts et
London, 1936 Metiers graphiques (magazine), 1935
S. L. Grigoriev, The Diaghilev Ballet, 1909- Exposition international des arts decoratifs et

1929, London, 1953 industriels modernes. URSS. Catalogue, Musee


Alexandre Benois, Reminiscences of the Russian des arts decoratifs, Paris, 1925
Ballet, London, 1941 Pressa. Katalog des Sowjet-Pavillons auf der
Alexandre Benois, Memoirs, London, i960 internationalen Presse-Ausstellung, Cologne,

Diaghilev, Theatre Serge de Diaghilev, 1928


S. P.
Paris, 1924 R. Banham, Theory and design in the first

machine age, London, i960


N. Ryaboushinsky (ed.), Le Toison d'Or
(magazine), Moscow, 1906-9. (First six Esprit Nouveau (magazine), ed. Le Corbusier,
months published in French and Russian; Ozenfant; Paris, 1920-5
remaining issues in Russian only but with Broom. An international magazine of the
French titles and index) published by American
artists artists in Italy,
ed. H. Loeb, A. Kreymboro: Rome, 1921-8
PRIMITIVISM AND FUTURISM Zarnowa (ed.) Blok (magazine). Lodz, 1924-8
Graziella Lehrmann, De Mariuctti a Maiakov- Paul Westheim, 'Russian art under Lunachar-
ski, Zurich, 1942 sky', De Stijl (magazine), 1919
Blaue Reiter, Exhibition catalogues, Munich, Max Eastman, Art and the life of action, 1935
191 1, 1912.
Max Eastman, Artists in uniform: A study of
Blaue Reiter Almanach, Munich, 19 12 literature and bureaucratism, London, New
Neue Kiinstlervereiuiguug. Katalog. Munich, York, 1934
191 1.
E. Ehrenburg, 'L'Art russc d'aujourd'hui',
David Burliuk (ed.), Color and Rhyme (maga- Amour de I' art (magazine), 1921
zine), No. 31, Hampton Bays, New York, Freeman, Kunitz, L. Lozowick, 'oices
J. J. I
of
1956 October, 1930
L. Moholy-Nagy and A. Kemeny, 'The
ABSTRACT SCHOOLS Dynamic Constructive System of Forces',
Guy Habasque, 'Documents medits sur les Sturm (magazine), No. 12

28l
E. and C. Paul, The Proletcult (proletarian KasimirMalevich, 1878-1935. Exhibition cata-
culture), New York, 1921 logue. Whitechapel Art Gallery, London,
Camilla Gray, 'The genesis of Socialist 1959. Introduction by Camilla Gray
Realism'. Soviet Survey, January-March, 1959 Juhen Alvard, 'Les idees de Malevitch', Art
d'Aujourd'hui (magazine), No. 5, July 1953
MONOGRAPHS ON ARTISTS Guy Habasque, 'Documents inedits sur les
A. Levinson, L. Bakst (catalogue), Paris, 1928 debuts de Suprematisme'. Aujourd'hui: art et

A. Levinson, The No.


architecture, 4, 1955
story of Leon Bakst's life,

London, 1923 M. Duchamp. K. Dreier, C. Giedion-


Katherine Dreier, Burliuk, New Welcker, Le Corbusier, R. Drouin, Antoine
York, 1944
Pevsner, Paris, 1947
I. Kloomok, Marc Chagall: His Life and Work,
New York, 195 Rene Massat, Antoine Pevsner et le Construc-
tivisme, Paris, 1956
J.J. Sweeney, Marc Chagall, New York, 1946
Ausstcllung Puni, Catalogue, Gal. der Sturm,
L. Ventun, Marc Chagall, New York, 1945 Berlin, 1921
P. Galaune, M. K. Ciurlionis, Kaunas, 1938
Camilla Gray, 'Alexander Rodchenko. A
V. Ciurhonyte-Karuziene, P. Galuane, etc. Constructivist designer', Typograhpica, Lon-
(ed.) M. K. Ciurlionis. Vilnius, 1961 don, June 1965
Jan KHz, Pavel Nikolaevic Fllouov, Prague, Oscar Bie, Const antin Somojf, Berlin, 1907
1966
Cabo. Construction, Sculpture, Paintings, Draw-
ings, Engravings, Lund Humphries, London,
1957. bibl. ARTISTS' WRITINGS
R. Olson and Chanin. Naum
A. Gabo,
N. Gabo, 'The constructive idea in art',
Antoine Pevsner. New York, 1948
Circle, London, 1937
Exposition de Natalie Gontcharova et Michel
N. Gabo, 'The concepts of Russian art',
Larionov. Catalogue, Galerie Paul Guillaume,
World Review, London, 1942
Introduction by Guillaume Apollinaire, Paris,
1914 N. Gabo, 'On constructive realism', Architects'
Year Book, 1952. Also a Trowbridge Lecture,
Larionov and Goucharova, Arts Council Retro-
Yale, 1948
spective Exhibition Catalogue, London, 1961.
Introductory essays by Mary Chamot and N. Goncharova, Les Ballets Russes, Paris, 1955
Camilla Gray V. Kandinsky, Ubcr das Geistigc in der Kunst,
The Goncharova-Larionov exhibition, Kingore Munich, 1912. (An English translation: The
New York. Introduction and cata-
Galleries, Art of Spiritual Harmony, London, 19 14)
logue by Christian Bnnton, 1922 V. Kandinsky, Kldnge, Munich, 191
V. Parnack, Goncharova-Larionov ; I 'art V. Kandinsky, Riickblicke (autobiographical
decoratif theatral moderne, Paris, 1919 essay), Berlin 191

Will Grohmann, Kandinsky, London, i960. V. Kandinsky. Punkt und Linie zur Flache,
bibl. Munich, 1926. (An English translation: Point
Horst Richter, El Lissitzky, Cologne, 1958. and Line to Plane, New York, 1947)
bibl. El Lissitzky (withH. Arp), Die Kunstismen
Camilla Gray, 'El Lissitzky. Typographer', 1914-1924, Zurich, 1925
Typographies i960 El Lissitzky, see: Merz, 1924, No. 8/9
Jan Tschichold, 'El Lissitzky', Imprimatur III, El Lissitzky, 'Prouen' (Quotations from a
1930 letter), ABC, No. 2, Basle, 1925

El Lissitzky, Catalogue, Stedelijk van Abbe- El Lissitzky, 'Story of Two Squares' pub-
museum, Eindhoven, December 1965 lished in De Stijl, 1922 (in Dutch)

282
List of Illustrations

ALTMAN, NATHAN
Designs for decorating the great square in front of the Winter Palace in Petrograd for the
pageant to celebrate the first anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917 197 200

Design for a stamp 1922, water-colour on paper 21,2

A stamp to commemorate Lenin's death 1924, collection: Bertold Lubctkin, London 231

ANNENKOV, YURY
A cover design 1922 249

BAKST, LEON
Les Onentales. Unrealized design for a backcloth, c. 19 10 water-colour on paper 22

L'Apres-midi d'un Faune. Sets and costumes designed by Bakst 1912, photograph of
scene in the original Diaghilev production 23

BENOIS, ALEXANDER
Versailles under Snow 1905, pen and ink on paper 3 1

Le Pavilion d'Armide. Stage set and two costumes 1907, water-colour on paper, Russian
Museum, Leningrad 26-28

BORISSOV-MUSSATOV, VICTOR
The Reservoir 1902, tempera on paper, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 36

Autumn Evening. Study for a fresco 1903, tempera, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 34
Sleep of the Gods. Study for a fresco 1903, tempera, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 35
Sunset reflection 1904, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 37

BRUNI, LEV
Construction 1917, perspex, aluminium, iron, glass, etc., presumed destroyed 221

BURLIUK, DAVID
My Cossack Ancestor c. 1908, oil on canvas 76

BURLIUK, VLADIMIR
Portrait of Benedict Livshits 191 1, oil on canvas 77

CEZANNE, PAUL
The Card Players 1890-2, oil on canvas 52! x 7I3, Barnes Foundation, Menon, USA 109

CHAGALL, MARC
The Gates of the Cemetery 1917, oil on canvas, 343 x 26^, collection: Madame Meyer-
Chagall 166

Designs for friezes for The State Jewish Theatre in Moscow 1919-20, oil on canvas 168

CIURLIONIS, MIKALOJUS
Sonata of the Stars 1908, tempera on paper, 28| x 245, Kaunas Museum, Lithuania 81

DOBUZHINSKY, MATISLAV
Man in Glasses L905-6, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 30

EXTER, ALEXANDRA
Venice 19 15, oil on canvas, private collection 176

283
City-scape c. 1916, oil on canvas i<in

A scene from Tairov's production of Romeo and Juliet in Moscow in 1921, with sets and
costumes designed by Exter 239

FALK, ROBERT
Portrait of the Tartar journalist Midhad Refatov 191 5, oil on canvas, 48! X31J, Tretyakov
Gallery, Moscow 85

FAVORSKY, VLADIMIR
Illustration to the Book of Ruth 1925, engraving 208

FILONOV, PAVEL
Man and Woman 19 12, oil on canvas, private collection 162

People Fishes c. 191 5, oil on canvas, private collection 163

GABO (PEVSNER), NAUM


Head of a Woman 1916-17, celluloid, metal, 24^
19^, The Museum of Modern Art,
New York 210
Project for a Radio Station 1919-20, pen and ink on paper, private collection, USSR 204

GAN, ALEXEI
Cover design 1927 253

GOLOSSOV, ILYA
Club of the Znev Commune Members, Moscow c. 1926. Still standing in Moscow 238

GOLOVIN, ALEXANDER
Ruslan and Ludmilla. Design for a backcloth 1902, gouache on paper 29

Boris Godunov. Design for a backcloth 1907, First scene of the Prologue, cardboard,
water-colour and gouache, 28| x 33^, Central State Theatrical Museum, USSR 25

G ON CHAR OVA, NATALIA


Madonna and Child 1905-7, oil on canvas, 40^ x 40^, artist's collection, Pans 62

Flight into Egypt 1908-9, oil on canvas 65

Fishing 1910, oil on canvas, 44^ x 39^, artist's collection, Paris 88

Haycutting 19 10, oil on canvas, 38I x 46^, artist's collection, Pans 55

The Evangelists 1910-1 1, oil on canvas, each 803 x 22|, artist's collection, Pans 89

Dancing Peasants 191 1, oil on canvas, 36^ -


56^, artist's collection, Paris 56

Peasants Picking Apples 191 1, oil on canvas, 41 x 3 8^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 87

Cats 1911-12, oil on canvas, 33^ x 33I, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 98

The Cyclist 1912-13, oil on canvas, 7^ x 4if Russian Museum, Leningrad


, 103

The Green and Yellow Forest 191 2, oil on canvas, 40 x 33^, artist's collection, Pans 100

The Looking-glass 1912, oil on canvas, 35 x 26|, artist's collection, Pans 82

Portrait of Larionov 1913, oil on canvas, 4i| x 3o|, artist's collection, Paris 102

Study in Ornament 1913(F), pencil on paper, artist's collection, Paris 64

The Machine's Engine 1913, oil on canvas, Galerie Loeb, Paris 101

KANDINSKY, VASSILY
Composition 6 19 13, oil on canvas, 76^ x n8, Hermitage Museum, Leningrad 182

284
White Background 1920, oil on canvas, 37 x 54, Russian Museum, Leningrad 183

Yellow Accompaniment 1924, oil on canvas, 32^x38^, Solomon R. Guggenheim


Museum, New York 184

KLIUN, IVAN
Suprematist Composition c. 1916, oil on canvas, 34! X 28, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 180

KLUTSIS
Poster for 1st Five Year Plan: 'Let us fulfil the plan of great works' 1930 248

KONCHALOVSKY, PYOTR
Portrait of Georgy Yakulov 19 10, oil on canvas, 70^ X 56^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 86

KOROVIN, KONSTANTIN
Don Quixote. Stage set for Scene 4, 1906, oil on canvas 13

KUSNETSOV, PAVEL
The Blue Fountain 1905, tempera on paper, 50 X 5 if, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 43

Birth c. 1906, pastel, 28| x 26, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 41

Grape Harvest c. 1907, tempera on paper 42

Holiday c. 1906, tempera on paper 38

LARIONOV, MIKHAIL
Two women bathing in a river c. 1903, oil on canvas, 28 x 39I, artist's collection, Paris 50

Rain 1904-5, oil on canvas, 33^ x 33^, artist's collection, Paris 51

A Corner of the Garden c. 1905, oil on canvas, 35^ * so|, Russian Museum, Leningrad 52

Fishes 1906, oil on canvas, 35! X 50, artist's collection, Paris 53

The Hairdresser 1907, oil on canvas, 33^ x 29I, artist's collection, Paris 68

Walk in a Provincial Town 1907-8, oil on canvas, 18^ x 35^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 67
Evening after the Rain 1908, oil on canvas, 26| x 33^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 66

Soldiers, first version 1908, oil on canvas, 37 x 28^, artist's collection, Paris 70

Soldier at the Hairdresser 1909, oil on canvas, 46^ x 35, artist's collection, Pans 69

The Soldiers, second version 1909, oil on canvas, 34^ x 40^, artist's collection, Paris 61

Portrait of Vladimir Burliuk c. 1910, oil on canvas, 52^ X41, artist's collection, Pans 75

The Relaxing Soldier 191 1, oil on canvas, 46! X 48, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 71

Glass 191 1, oil on canvas, 41 x 38^, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 92

Blue Rayonnism 1912, oil on canvas, 25^ X 27^, collection: Boris Tcherkinsky, Paris 93

Manya c. 191 2, oil on canvas 72

Manya, second version c. 191 2, water-colour on paper, 8x6, artist's collection, Paris 73

Rayonnist Landscape 1912, oil on canvas, 28 X 37, Russian Museum, Leningrad 90


Portrait of Vladimir Tatlin 1913-14, oil on canvas, 35^ x 28^, collection: Michel Scuphor,
Paris 99
Spring 1912, oil on canvas, 33^ x 26^, artist's collection, Pans 74
Sea Beach 191 3-14, oil on canvas, 2i\ x 27^, collection: Boris Tcherkinsky, Paris 91

285
LAVINSKY
Cover design to the anthology of Mayakovsky's work entitled: 13 Years of Work.
Volume 2. Published 1922 252

LEVITAN, ISAAC
Above Eternal Peace 1894, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 14

LISSITKY, LAZAR (el)


An illustration to a Jewish children's book entitled:, Chad Gadya c. 1918, water-colour,
9x11, collection: Eric Estorick, London 167

Street poster: Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge 1919-20. 226
Berlin Exhibition of Russian Art 1923. A corner of the room designed by Lissitzky 228

Cover design of the magazine VeshchlGegenstand/Objet 1922 250


The Story of Two Squares. A book written and designed by Lissitzky in Vitebsk in 1920.
Published in Berlin in 1922 225
A page from the anthology For Reading Out Loud 1923 246
Proun 99 c. 1924, oil on canvas, 50^ x 39, Yale Art Gallery, New Haven 169

A cover design 1929 251

Pull-out folder in catalogue to the Soviet section of the International Press Exhibition held
in Cologne in 1930 227
Model of design for Sergei Tretyakov's / want a child, 1929, for Meyerhold's unrealized
production 24

MALEVICH, KASIMIR
Flower Girl 1904-5, oil on canvas, 3I2X 39^, Russian Museum, Leningrad 105

Chiropodist in the Bathroom 1908-9, gouache on paper, 30^ x 40^, Stedelijk Museum,
Amsterdam 108

The Bather 1909-10, gouache on paper, 41 x 27, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 104

Haymaking 191 1, oil on canvas, 33 J x 26f Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


, m
Peasants in Church 1910-11, oil on canvas, 29J x 38, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam no
Woman with Buckets and a Child 1910-1 1, oil on canvas, 28| x 28|, Stedelijk Museum,
Amsterdam 106

Taking in the Harvest 191 1, oil on canvas, 28| x 29^, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 107

The Woodcutter 191 1, oil on canvas, 37x28, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 112

The Knife-Grindcr 19 12, oil on canvas, 3 \\ < 31^, Yale Art Gallery, New Haven 157

Woman with Buckets: Dynamic arrangement 1912, oil on canvas, 31x31, The Museum
of Modern Art, New York 1 1

Head of a Peasant Girl 1913, oil on canvas, 31J x 37I, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 116

Morning in the Country after the Rain 1912-13, oil on canvas, 3I5X 3i, Solomon R.
Guggenheim Museum, New York 114

The Guardsman 1912-13, oil on canvas, 22^ x 26, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 117

Black Circle c. 191 3, oil on canvas, 42^ x 42I, Russian Museum, Leningrad 127

Black Cross c. 19 13, oil on canvas, 42! x 425, Russian Museum, Leningrad 128

Black Square c. 191 3, oil on canvas, 42^ x 42^, Russian Museum, Leningrad 126

Black Square and Red Square c. 191 3, oil on canvas, 28^ x 17^, The Museum of Modern
Art, New York 129

286
Portrait of M. V. Matiushin 191 3, oil on canvas, 41^ x 40^, private collection 1 18

Three backcloth and twelve costume designs for Victory over the Sun 191 3, pencil, gouache
on paper, Theatrical Museum, Leningrad 122-25

An Englishman in Moscow 1914, oil on canvas, 34


22^, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 121

Suprcmatist Composition 191 4, oil on canvas, 23 x 19, The Museum of Modern Art,
New York 130

Woman beside an Advertisement Pillar 1914, oil on canvas, 28 x 25^, Stedelijk Museum,
Amsterdam 119

House under Construction 1914-15, oil on canvas, 37^ x 17^, collection: Mr and Mrs
Armand P, Bartos, New York 132

Suprematist Composition 1914-15, oil on canvas, 38^x26, Stedelijk Museum,


Amsterdam 131

Dynamic Suprematism 1916, oil on canvas, 3I2X 313, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 140

Suprematist Composition 1916-17, oil on canvas, 31^ x 28, Russian Museum, Leningrad 133

Suprematist Composition 1916-17, oil on canvas, 38^x262, on extended loan to The


Museum of Modern Art, New York 134
Suprematism: Yellow and Black 1916-17, oil on canvas, 28f x 27 Russian Museum,,

Leningrad 135

Supremus No. 18 1916-17, pencil on paper, 4| x 5, collection: Eric Estorick, London 136

Yellow Quadrilateral on White 1916-17, oil on canvas, 41^x27!, Stedelijk Museum,


Amsterdam 145

Suprematist Composition: White on White 191 8, oil on canvas, 31^ x 31^, The Museum
of Modern Art, New York 211

Cup and Teapot designed for the State Pottery, Leningrad c. 1920 216, 217

Future Planits. Homes for Earth-dwellers; People c. 1924, pencil on paper, 11^ 17^,
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 137

Examples of Malevich's Architectonics 1924-8, plaster, cardboard, wood, paint 138, 139

MASHKOV, ILYA
Portrait ot a Boy in an Embroidered Shirt 1909, oil on canvas, 465 x 3 1^, Russian Museum,
Leningrad 84

Portrait of E. I. Kirkalda 1910, oil on canvas, 65I x 48^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 83

MEDUNETSKY, KASIM1R
Construction No. 557 1919, tin, brass, iron, 17^ high, Yale Art Gallery, New Haven 223

MELNIKOV, KONSTANTIN
The Soviet Pavilion at the Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts 1925 237

MILIUTI, NIKOLAI
Angel of Sorrow (decorative panel) c. 1905, gouache on paper (?) 44

Mil TUTI, VASSIL^


Legend 190$, gouache on paper (?) 47

MITURICH, PYOTR
Construction 1920, ink on paper, destroyed by the artist 224

Construction No. 18 1920, ink on paper, destroyed by the artist 222

287
PASTERNAK, L HO Nil)
Moscow Artists 1902, pastel on paper, Russian Museum, Leningrad

PETROV-VODKIN, KUZMA
The Playing Boys iyn, oil on canvas, Russian Museum, Leningrad 54
19 1 8 in Petrograd 1920, oil on canvas, 28| x 36^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 207

PEVSNER, ANTON (NOTON)


Carnaval 191 5, oil on canvas, 49^ < 26|, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 209

PICASSO, PABLO
Musical Instruments 191 2-1 3, oil on canvas, Hermitage Museum, Leningrad 120

PIMENOV, YURY
Give to Heavy Industry 1927, oil on canvas, 102^ X 83^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 213

PIROSMANASHVILI, NIKO
The actress Margarita 1909, oil on waxed cloth, 46-
37, Art Museum of the State of
Georgia 59

POPOVA, LIUBOV
Italian Still-life 1914, oil on canvas, wax, paper collage, 24I x 19^, Tretyakov Gallery,
Moscow 164
The Violin 1914, oil on canvas, 34! x 27, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 175

Seated Figure c. 191 5, oil on canvas, 49^ x 42^, Russian Museum, Leningrad 161

The Traveller 191 5, oil on canvas, 41^


55I, private collection 173

Painting Relief 1916, oil on canvas 178

Architectonic Composition 191 7, oil on canvas 1 79

Architectonic Painting 1917, oil on canvas, 31^ *


3 5, The -Museum of Modern Art,
New York 165

The Magnanimous Cuckold. Stage set 1922, Meyerhold production, Moscow 245

PUNI, IVAN
Plate on Table c. 191 5, walnut wood, painted china plate, collection: Zhenia
Bogoslavskaya, Pans 170

Suprematist Composition c. 19 15, wood, tin-foil, cardboard, oil, etc. on board, collection:
Zhenia Bogoslavskaya, Paris 171

REPIN, ILYA
They Did Not Expect Him 1884, oil on canvas, 41^ < 65^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 2

RODCHENKO, ALEXANDER
The Dancer 191 4, oil on canvas, private collection U.S.S.R., photograph from the
private archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 185

Compass and drawing 1913-14, pen and ink, water-colour, on paper, private
ruler
collection, photograph from the private archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 186

Compass and drawing 19 14-15, pen and ink, water-colour, on paper, private
ruler
collection, photograph from the private archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 187

Line Construction 1920, pen and ink on paper, I2| x 7, private collection, photograph
from the private archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 190

Abstract Composition 1918, gouache on paper, 13 x 6, The Museum of Modern Art,


New York 193
Line Construction 1920, pen and ink on paper, private collection 191

Abstract Painting 1918, oil on canvas, 29^


22, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 1X9

Black on Black 9 8 oil on canvas, HgX 1 1|, Tretyakov Gallery,


1 1 , Moscow, photograph
from the private archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 212

Composition 19 18, gouache on paper, The Museum New York


of Modern Art, 192

Composition 1919, gouache on paper, \i\ 9^, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1X8

Abstract Composition c. 1920, oil on canvas, private collection, photograph from the
private archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 195

Construction 1920, gouache on paper, private collection, photograph from the private
archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 205

Construction of distance 1920, wood, private collection, photograph from the private
archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 219
Hanging Construction 1920, wood, private collection U.S.S.R., photograph from the
private archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 206

Line construction c. 191 7, oil on board, private collection, photograph from the private
archives of Mr Alfred Barr, Jr 194
Worker's Club designed for the Soviet Pavilion at the Paris Exhibition of Decorative
Arts in 1925 235
Examples of multi-purpose furniture and clothing designed under Rodchenko in his
Metal-work department in the Moscow Vkhutemas. Middle 1920's 236
Cover design to an anthology of Mayakovsky's poetry entitled: 'No. S' 1927 254
Cover design and a page from the magazine 'LeP with lay-out by Rodchenko 255, 256

ROERICH, NICHOLAS
Prince Igor. Design for a set 1909, tempera, gouache on paper, 20 >
30, Victoria and
Albert Museum, London 24

ROSANOVA, OLGA
Geography 1914-15, oil on canvas 174

Abstract Composition c. 19 16, oil on canvas, 22| -


lyf, Russian Museum, Leningrad 181

SAPUNOV, NIKOLAI
Mascarade. Design for a set c. 1906, gouache on paper, Russian Museum, Leningrad 39

Colombine's Best Man. Three costume designs 1910, water-colour on paper, The
Theatrical Museum, Leningrad 40

SARYAN, MARTIROS
Man with Gazelles c. 1905, tempera 45

The Poet c. 1906, tempera 49


Self-portrait 1907, tempera 48

Deserted Village 1907, oil 46

SEROV, VALENTIN
October. Domotkanovo 1895, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 15

Portrait of the actress Ermolova, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 16

Peter the First 1907, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 33

SOMOV, KONSTANTIN
The Kiss 1902, etching 3 2

289
STENBERG BROTHERS
Poster design for Dziga Vertov's film: The Eleventh 1928, photo-montage 247

STEPANOVA (VARST, AGARIKH), VAHVARA


The Death of Tarelkin. Stage set 1922, Meyerhold production, Moscow 244
Textile design 1922-4 229

SUETIN
Plate with Suprematist design c. 1920, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 214
Plate with Suprematist design c. 1920, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 215

SURIKOV, VASSILY
The Boyanna Morosova 188 1-7, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 9

TATLIN, VLADIMIR
Vendor of Sailors' Contracts 1910, gouache on paper 96
Bouquet 191 1, oil on canvas, 36 X i8|, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 95
Fishmonger 191 1, gum-paints, cardboard, 29! x 38f, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 94
Hall in the Castle. Design for a backcloth for: Emperor Maximilian and his son Adolf 191 1,
cardboard, water-colour, gum-paints, gouache, 3 if X 36|, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 141

The Sailor 191 1-12, oil on canvas, 28+ 28^, Russian Museum, Leningrad 97
Composition from a Nude 191 3, oil on canvas, 56^ -
42^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 144
The Bottle c. 191 3, tin-foil, wall-paper, etc., presumed destroyed 150

Wood. Sketch for a backcloth for the opera: Ivan Susanin 19 13, gum-paints, cardboard,
2I 4 v
37|' Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 142

Painting Reliefs 191 3-14, wood, wall-paper, iron, etc., presumed destroyed 151, 152

Painting Relief: Selection of materials 19 14, iron, plaster, glass, etc., presumed destroyed 154
Relief 1914, wood, glass, tin can, etc., presumed destroyed 153

Model of his glider 'Letatlin\ In Moscow 1932 159

Complex Corner Relief 191 5, iron, aluminium, zinc, etc., presumed destroyed 158

Corner Relief 191 5, iron, etc., presumed destroyed 160

Board No. 1 : Old Basmannaya 1916-17, egg-paint, gilt, on board, 4if x 22^, Tretyakov
Gallery, Moscow 155

Relief 1917, wood, zinc sprayed on iron, 39I X 25^, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 156

'New Way of Life'. A set of worker's clothes modelled by Tatlin and a functionalist stove
c. 1918 230
Monument to the Illrd International 1919-20, wood, iron and glass, remnants of this
maquette are stored in the Russian Museum, Leningrad 203

Laughter. A costume design for the play: Zan-Gesi 1923 147

Maquette of a stage set for Zan-Gesi, produced by Tatlin in Petrograd in the Museum of
Artistic Culture in 1923 146

A tubular steel chair with rubber moulded seat c. 1927 234


Teapot designed under Tatlin in the ceramic faculty of the Moscow Higher Technical
Institute (Vkhutein) 1930, Culture of Materials is stamped on the bottom of this teapot 233

Comedy of the 17th Century. Two stage sets for the production of Ostrovsky's play in the
Moscow Arts Theatre in 1933 148, 149

290
UDALTSOVA, N A I) EZ HDA
At the Piano c. 1914, oil on canvas, 42 35, Yale Art Gallery, New I laven, USA 172

VASNETSOV, VICTOR
Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden). Design for a stage set 1883 12

Snegurochka. A costume design 1883 1 ]

VESNIN, ALEXANDER
The Man who was Thursday. Stage set for a play based on Chesterton's novel produced
by Tairov in the Moscow Kamcrny Theatre in 1923 242

VRUBEL, MIKHAIL
Egyptian costume design 1890's, pen and ink on paper, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 10

Sketch for an illustration to Lermontov's poem: The Demon 1890, pencil on paper,
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 21

The Dance of Tamara 1890, water-colour on paper, Russian Museum, Leningrad 18

Ceramic stove c. 1899, Abramtsevo Museum, near Moscow 7

Still-life of Roses c. 1900, pencil on paper 20

Vase of Flowers 1904, water-colour on paper, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 19

Portrait of Valery Briussov 1905, pencil, charcoal, oil on paper, Tretyakov Gallery,
Moscow 17

YAKULOV, GEORGY
Le Pas d'Acier. Maquette of the set and costumes for Diaghilev's production, 1927, and
a scene from the production 240, 241

ZINOVIEV, A.
Table designed and executed in the Talashkino workshops c. 1905 5

MISCELLANEOUS
The Abramtsevo Church 1880-2 3

The Iconostasis of the Abramtsevo Church 8

The Abramtsevo Museum 6

Traditional peasant carving from the Abramtsevo Museum Collection 4

Gingerbread figures made in traditional wooden carved moulds from Archangel 57, 58

Nineteenth-century Russian 'lubok' illustrating a tale by Knlov 60

The Siren. Early nineteenth-century Russian 'lubok' 63

Drama in Cabaret No. 13. Shot from the film showing Larionov and Goncharova. 1914 78

Embroidered towel from North Dvinsk 1 1

Icon of the Northern School of Russia. Descent from the Cross. Fifteenth century 143

Chout (Bourfon) Close-up photograph from the Diaghilev production. 1921. 80

A shot from the film 'Creation can't be bought' 19 18 79

An Agitation-Instruction train: The Red Cossack -201

The first 'Obmokhu' exhibition held in the Vkhutemas, Moscow in May 1920 220

The Cafe Pittoresquc, Moscow, 191 7, designed by Tatlm, Yakulov and Rodchcnko 196

The 'Red Star' Agitational-Boat -02

Malevich teaching pupils in the Institute of Artistic Culture, Leningrad, 1925 218

291
1 1 1 1

Index
References in italics detune illustration number:

Abramtsevo church 12, 16-18, 20-1 3, 8 ;


Bogoslavskaya-Funi, Zhenia 193, 194, 221
Abramtsevo colony & workshops 9-14, 20-3, Bonnard, Pierre 51, 70, 82, 83, 89, 103, 128,
27, 29, 35, 39, 43, 44, 50, 56, 100, 247 H5
Abramtsevo Museum 18; 4, 6 BorisGodunov 55, 60
Abramtsevo pottery 47, 50, 114; 7 Bonssov-Mussatov, Victor 51, 61-2, 71, 74,
Afanasiev 168 75, 76, 78, 88, 99, 100; J4-7; The Reservoir
Africa, art of 69, 90 62; 36
Aksakov, Sergei 127 Borodin, Alexander 9, 11, 24, 56
'Alogist' theory of Malevich 153, 195, 212 Botkin, Mikhail 67
Altman, Nathan 193, 197, 21 1, 221, 228, 230, Brangwyn, Sir Frank 50
2}2; igy-200, 231, 232 Braque, Georges 83, 88, 155, 193, 197
'Analytical Painting' (Filonov's school) 190 Bnk, Osip 220, 230, 248, 258
Annenkov, Yuri 224; 2^9 Bruissov, Valery 65
Annensky 200 'Briicke' group 122, 193
Antokolsky, Mark 12 Brueghel, Pieter 100
Apollon magazine 66, 1 18 Bruni, Lev 221
L'Apres-midi d'un Faune 42, 56; 23 Burliuk bros. 27, 83, 108, 1 14-18 passim, 122,
Architecture 12, 17-18, 167, 226, 264-5, 268, 128-30, 131, 211; 76, 77, 7Q; portrait of
276; 3, 8, 1 18, i3g, 201, 217, 2^8 Vladimir 75
Arkhitektura SSSR 276 Burne-Jones, Sir Edward 48
Art Nouveau 37, 41, 48, 77 Byzantine art 29, 22, 66, 68, 91, 100, 148, 239
ArtisticTreasury of Russia magazine 66
Austria, art of 65, 77; see also Vienna 'Carnival of the Arts', Petrograd (1917) 214
Azbe 90, 1 10, 118 Cecchetti 52
Cezanne, Paul 35, 49, 51, 68, 69, 70, 83, 85, 91,
Bakhrushin 1 97, 100, 104, 120, 122, 126, 135, 145, 146,
Bakst, Leon 40, 42, 44, 47, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56; 168, 172, 173 log ;

22, 23 Chagall, Marc 133, 187, 189, 193, 240-1, 253;


Balakirev, Mill 1 166, 168
Ballet 46, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 67, 120, 141, 196, Chavannes, Puvis de 43, 48, 50, 61
239, 265; 23, 26-8, 80, 240, 241 Chcrepnin, Nikolai 53, 54
Balmont, Konstantin 39, 48, 65 Chernishcvsky, Nikolai 6, 10, 271
Bastien-Lepage, Jules 61 Chistyakov, Pavel 29, 40, 61, 173
Batignolles school 68 Ciurlionis, Mikalojus 118; 81
Bauhaus 235, 241, 249 Civ pat re 56
Beardsley, Aubrey 44, 48 Constructivism 6, 97, 109, 167, 185, 196, 200,
Bcly, Andrei 39, 118 202, 204, 226, 235, 239, 245-75 passim
Belyayev 1 Corinth, Lovis 40
Bcnois, Alexander 37-58 passim, 61, 66, 71, Cross 89
118; 26-8, 31 Cubism 69, 93, 120, 140, 141, 154-5, !74, 193,
Bcnois, Nicholas 38 195, 196, 197, 202, 211, 219, 221
Berlin 118, 174, 186, 249, 275 Cubo-Futunsm 94if., 148, 151, 153, 155, 165,
Bilibin, Ivan 50, 71, 100 172, 185 ff., 212, 253
Birle, Charles 44 Cm, Cezar 1

'Blaue Reiter' group see 'Blue Rider' 'Culture of materials' i76ff., 243
Blok, Alexander 39, 48, 65
'Blue Rider' group 62, 93, 116, 118, 122, 131, Dada 155, 160, 186-7, 215
132, 134,148, 193, 194, 238 Dargomuishsky, Alexander 24
'Blue Rose' group 62, 71-2, 74-80, 83-93 Degas, Edgar 48, 50, 68
passim, no, 112 Deineka 233
Boccioni, Umberto 193, 199 Delaunay, Robert 120, 193, 202
Bocklin, Arnold 49, 50 The Demon (Lermontov) 32, }}; 18, 21
Bogdanov 244-5 Denis, Maurice 70, 82, 100, 128

292
Derain, Andre 82, 145 Gauguin, Paul 49, 51, 68, 69, 70, 83, 84, 97,
Diaghilev, Sergei 23, 42-3, 44-7, 48, 50-6 45
passim, 60, 61, 67, 71, 75, 97, 99, 109, 117, Die Gegenstatidlose Welt 241
120, I4I, 185, 239, 265; 2j, 24O, 24I Germany &. German culture 9, 38, 40-1, 43,
Dobroliubov, Nikolai 10, 274 49, 50, 5 1, 61, 77, 1 26, 1 86, 193, 274; see aho
Dobuzhinsky, Rostislav 50; 30 Munich
Dongen, van 83, 88 Gleizes, Albert 120
'Donkey's Tail' group & exhibitions [325 Glinka, Mikhail 56, 170
passim, 146, 148, 150, 170 Gogh, Vincent van 51, 68, 83, 85, 100, 104,
Dorner, Alexander 276 122, 135, 145
Dostocvsky, Fyodor 9 Gogol, Nikolai 12-13, 3 X
Drama Cabaret (film) 115; 78
in 'Golden Fleece' group, magazine & exhibi-
Du Cubisme 120 tions 66, 69, 70-1, 80-93 passim, 97, 104,
Duchamp, Marcel 193 114, 120, 123, 146
Golossov, Ilya 238
Ehrenburg, Ilya 274-5; 2 5 Golovin, Alexander 23, 44, 50, 56, 60; 2,5, 29
Eisenstein, Sergei 268, 271 Goncharov, Sergei 97, 98
England, art of 44, 48, 50, 51 Goncharova, Natalia 27, 50, 55, 72, 83, 84, 86,
'EspritNouveau' group 275 88, 89, 92, 93, 96, 97-100, 103, 104, 108,
'Evenings of Contemporary Music' 66 109, 111-18 passim, 122, 127, 128, 131, 132,
'Exhibition of Leftist Trends' 21 1 133, 134, 141, 142-3, 146, 153, 168, 172,
Exhibitions, Diaghilev's 44, 45, 49, 50, 54-5, 174, 185, 187, 197, 216; 55, 56, 62, 64, 65,
71, 76, 99, 120 (For other exhibitions ..sec 78, 82, 87-9, 98, 100-3; Fishing 127; 88;
under their titles or names of organising Peasants Picking Apples 128, 134; 87
groups) Grabar, Igor 50
Expressionism 126, 134, 187 Gropius, Walter 276
Exter, Alexandra 1 1 1, 112, 114, 118, 129, 193, Guro, Elena 108, 114
200, 202, 206, 243, 250, 251, 252, 265; 176,
177, 239 Heart of a Marchioness (ballet) 52
Heckel, Erich 126
Falk,Robert 27, 90, 91, 122, 126, 233; 85 Heine, T. T. 44
Fauvism 61, 68, 82, 85, 88, 97, 100, 126, 134, Hilea 110, 113
141 Holbein 118
Favorsky, Vladimir 233, 238; 208
Feuerbach, Anselm 40 Icons 18, 21, 54-5, 60, 68, 97, 148, 168-9; 143
Filippov 213 Impressionism 27, 40-1, 43, 44, 56, 60, 68, 71,
Films 115, 268; 78, 79 83, 102-3, l 4
Filonov, Pavel 115, 185, 189-93, !94! 162, l ^3\ 'The Impressionists' exhibition 114
Man and Woman 187; 162; People - Fishes Industrial art 204, 246-9, 258-61; 214-17,
187; 163 230-6
Filosofov, Dmitri 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 47, 48, 51 Inkhuk 233-5, 245, 246, 248, 256, 274-5; 218
Firebird 67 Institute of Artistic Culture see above Inkhuk
'5 x 5 = 25'
exhibition 250 Isknssti'o Kommuni 2} 1

Fokine, Michael 54, 56 Italy see under Futurism; see also Rome,
Folk art 14, 18, 43, 44, 93, 97, 134; 4, 57, 58, Venice
60, 1
15 Izdebsky, Vladimir 116
Fonvisin 1 12 IZO Narkompros 220, 228, 230ff.
France & French culture 27, 46, 48-9, 50, 51,
61, 65, 67-8, 70, 75, 82, 83, 85, 88, 92, 102, Jeanncret bros. 275
120, 122, 126, 127, 193 Jewish art 187, 253; 167, 168
Futurism 27, 56, 93-4, 98, 107-8, 114, 115,
129, 134, 142, 155, 158, 160, 185m, 202rT., Kamensky, Vassily 214
219, 221, 230, 236 Kandinsky, Vassily 62, 116, 118, 122, 129, 131,
132, 143, 194- 209, 211, 228, 230, 232, 233,
Gabo, Naum 226, 230, 239, 246, 248, 249, 234-5, 238, 246, 249; 182-4
250; 204 Kemeny 274
Gan, Alexci 248, 256-8, 269; 253 Khardzhev, Nikolai 94, 136

293
,

Khlcbnikov, Victor 108, 155, 174, 214, 231 103, no, 114, 128, 133, 134, 141, 143-67,
Kiev 114, 129, 187, 253; Cathedral of St 172-3, 185, 189, 193, 194, 197, 198-200,
Vladimir 33; St Cyril church 29, 31-2; 204, 206-13 passim, 219, 231, 232, 233, 234,
School of Art 145 240-1, 242, 246-7, 249, 254, 269; 104-8,
Khun, Ivan 204, 208; 180 110-14, 116-19, 121-40, 145, 157, 211, 216,
Klutsis 269; 248 217; photograph of, teaching 218; archi-
'Knave of Diamonds' group & exhibitions 9 1 tectural projects 167, 180, 247; 136-9;
112, 115, 120, 122, 126, 128, 131, 134, 135, Black Square 160, 161, 165; 126; Chiropodist
143, 160, 172, 211, 238 in the Bathroom 146, 148 ; 108; An Englishman
Konchalovsky, Pyotr 27, 32, 122, 126; 86; in Moscow 155, 187, 212; 121; Flower Girl
Portrait qfGeorgy Yakuloi> 126; 86 145-6; 105; Haymaking 150, 153; 111; Head
Korovin, Konstantin 16, 23, 27, 43, 44, 47, 50, of a Peasant Girl 154; 116; Knife-Grinder
56, 60, 71, 72; 13 172, 198-200; 157; Morning in the Country
Kruchenikh, Alexei 27, 108, 114, 155, 158, after Rain 153; 114; Peasants in Chnrch 148;
185, 218, 240 110; Planits see Architectural projects;
Kupnn, Alexander 126 White on White series 166, 240; Woman
Kushner, Boris 258 with Buckets and a Child 147, 148, 153;
Kusnetsov, Pavel 27, 50, 55, 60, 72, 74-6, 83, 106; Woman with Buckets, Dynamic arrange-
84, 86, 88, 91, 233; 38, 41-3; Birth 76; 41 ment 153, 172; 113; Woodcutter 151, 153;
1 12
'Laboratory art' 248 ft. Malyutin, Sergei 44, 50
Landscape painting 16, 29, 36, 75, 114; 14, 13 Mamontov, Elizabeth 11-14, 17, 20; Savva
Lanseray 46, 47, 50 9, n-14, 23-4, 27, 29, 35, 47, 50, 60
Larionov, Mikhail 27, 29, 50, 55, 72, 83, 84, Mannetti, Fihppo 93-4
86, 88, 89, 92-109 passim, m-15 passim, Marquet, Albert 82, 88
118, 122, 126-3 5 passim, 142, 143, 145, 146, Mashkov, Ilya 27, 122, 83, 84; Portrait of a Boy
153, 160, 167, 168, 172, 185, 187, 195, 197, in an Embroidered Shirt 126; 84; Portrait of
216; 50-3, 61, 66-75, 78, So, 90-3, 99; Fishes E.I. Kirkalda 123, 126; 83
89, 103; 53; Portrait of Vladimir Bitrliuk 134; Matisse, Henri 49, 67, 68, 69, 82, 85, 88, 91,
73; Soldiers series 102, 106, 109, 127; 68-71; 103, 104, 120, 122, 123, 126, 134, 146
Spring 109; 74 Matiushin 1 14, 185
Le Corbusier, Charles 276 Matveev, Alexander 75
Lc/magazine 258, 270; 255, 256 Mayakovsky, Vladimir 27, 108, no, 113, 115,
Lc Fauconnier, Henri 83, 120, 122, 193 140, 185, 190, 194, 216, 220, 258, 259, 270;
Leger, Fernand 154-5, 173. ! 93 79, 251, 252, 254
Leibl, Wilhelm40, 118 Medunetsky, Kasimir 202, 252; 223
Lenin 244-5 Melnikov, Konstantin 264; 237
Leningrad Art Academy 91; Marhnsky Menzel, Adolf von 40, 118
(Kirov) Theatre 38, 52, 54, 60 Mcrcereau, Alexandre 120; Henri 69, 82
Lentulov, Anstarkh 27, 112, 122 Merezhkovsky, Dmitri 39, 47, 48
Lermontov, M.Y. 32, 33 Meyerhold, Vsevelod 204, 224, 258, 268;
Leskov, N. S. 174 243-5
Levitan, Isaac 16, 23, 27, 29, 50, 75, 90; 14 Miliuti bros. 50, 72, 74, 77, 80, 85, 88; 44, 47;
Liadov, Anatoly 67 Nikolai Angel oj Sorrow 77-8; 44; Vassily
Liebermann, Max 40, 118 Legend So; 47
'The Link' exhibition 112 Mitunch, Pytor 222, 224
Lissitsky, Lazar (El) 54, 189, 193, 241, 253-4, Monet, Claude 48, 50, 68, 70, 71
269, 270, 274, 275-6; 1 67, 169, 225-8, 243, Moreau, Gustave 61, 62
246, 250, 251; Story of Two Squares 253-4; Morosov, Ivan n, 69-70, 83, 120, 145, 173
225 Moscow 9, 10, 11, 14, 21, "22, 50, 84, 93, 98,
Livshits,Benedict 129, 131; portrait of 77 114, 115, 132, 133, 194, 231, 234, 246;
'Lubki' 97, 105, 134, 253; 60, 63 Academy of Sciences 235; Bolshoi Theatre
Lunacharsky, Anatoly 228, 230, 232, 235, 244, 38; Cafe Pittoresque 213-14, 215, 276; 196;
245 College &
school of artists 16, 27, 29, 60, 61,
62, 71-2, 75, 89, 98, 101, 102, 1 10, 11 1, 122,
Makovsky, Sergei 75 168, 232; Kamerny Theatre 200, 202, 208,
Malcvich, Kasimir 6, 41, 69, 80, 96, 97, 100, 252, 265; 242; Lenin Mausoleum 264;

294
Stroganov School of Applied Art 21 1, 232, Post-Impressionism 5, 68, 82, 83, 120
236; Vkhutein/Vkhutemas 173- ' x ^ 232-4, Prakhov, Adrian 12, 29
252, 254, 260, 261 220 ; Primitivism 97, 104, 110, 114, 127, 134, 141
Moussorgsky, Modest 9, 1 !, 24, 55 Prince Igor ballet 43, 56; 24
Munich 43, 49, 65, 90, 93, no, 115, 1 1 S, 122, Printing see Typography
i.U, '94
i.?i, 'Private Opera' of Mamontov 2}, 24, 60
'Museums of Artistic Culture' 231 Prokofiev, Serge 67
Proletcult 244-5, 2 59
Nabi group 37, 51, 61, 68, 70, 76, 82, 89 Puni, Ivan 193, 194, 195, 204, 208, 221, 2}2\
Narkompros 244-5 172, 173
Nazarenes 9 Punin, Nikolai 177, 220, 230, 231
Nesterov, Mikhail 18, 40, 48, 50 Pushkin, A.S. 98
Neuekunstlervereinigimg 1 16
'Nevsky Pickwickians' 37, 39, 40, 43, 44, 56 Rayonmsm 115, 136-42, 153, 1 85 fT. ;
go
The New Way magazine 65 'Red Cossack' propaganda train 224; 201
Nijinsky, Vaslav 54, 56 'Red Star' Agitational Boat 202
Nurok, Alfred 44, 47, 48, 66 Renoir, Pierre Auguste 68, 70, 83
Nuvel, Walter 39, 44, 47, 48, 66 Repin, Ilya 14, 18, 29, 33, 50; 2, 8; They Did
Not Expect Him 1 4 ; 2
'O.io. The Last Futurist Painting Exhibition' Revolution (19 17) 219 et seq.

204, 206-8 Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai 9, n, 18, 24, 43,


'Objectism' 248-9 45, 5f>, 57
Obmokhu group 202, 251, 252; 220 Rodchenko, Alexander 21 1-18, 226, 230, 238,
Odessa no, 187, 211 240, 242-3, 247, 250, 251, 259, 261, 269,
L'CEnvre (Zola) 40-1 270, 271; 183-7, 190-6, 203, 206, 212, 219,
The Old Years magazine 66 233, 236, 234-6; Black on Black 240, 250;
Orphism 193 212; The Dancer 211-12; 183
Rodin, Auguste 82, 98
Paris 14, 27, 43, 46, 54, 55, 56, 60, 61, 65, 67, Roerich Nicholas 21, 43, 56, 71; 24; Prince
82, 84, 91, 93, 99, 110, 118, 119, 120, 187, Igor settings for 43 24 ;

193, 239, 275 Rome 1 1-12


Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts (1925) Rosanova, Olga 115, 197, 198, 211, 230, 2^,
264; 233, 237 236, 240, 245; 174, 181 Geography 197, 198;
;

Pasternak, Leonid 90; /


Le Pavilion d'Armide ballet 53-4, 56; 26-8 Rosenberg, Lev see Bakst, Leon
Pavlova, Anna 54, 56 Rouault, Georges 83, 86, 88
Penza School of Art 168 Rnslan & Lndmilla 56, 60
Petersburg Academy of Art & school of Ryaboushinsky, Nikolai 80, 82, 83, 86
artists 9, 16, 22, 29, 38, 43, 50, 57-60, 61, 71,
189, 231 SA architecture magazine 276
Petrograd see St Petersburg mid above entry St Petersburg 38, 66, 112, 114, 115, 190, 194,
Petrograd Free Studios 231, 2}2 204, 211, 221, 223, 231, 234; 197-200;
Petrov-Vodkin, Kuzma 83, 90, 91, 232; 34, May College 37, 40, 43; see also Petersburg
207; Playing Boys 91 34 ; Academy
Pevsner, Anton 2}^, 238, 239, 246, 248, 249; Salon d'Automne (1906) 54-5
209; Naum see Gabo, Naum Sapunov, Nikolai 50; 39, 40
Photography 270-1 ; see also Films Saratov 62, 75; Radishchev Museum 61, 75
Picasso, Pablo 67, 68, 69, 88, 103, 120, 155, Saryan, Martiros 72, 80, 83, 85, 86, 91 ; 43, 46,
173, 174, 193, 195, 197; 120 48, 49; Man with Gazelles 80; 43
Pimenov, Yury 233; 213 Savrassov, Alexei 12, 16
Pirosmanishvih, Niko 134; 39 The Scales magazine 65
Pisarro, Camille 68, 71, 83 Scnabin, Alexander 48, 234
Polcnov, Vassily 12, 14, 16-18, 20, 27, 75; 8 Serov, Valentin 14, 27, 29, 33, 36, 43, 44, 47,
Polenova, Elena 20, 50 50, 60, 71, 72, 75, 90; 13, 16, 33
Popova, Liubov 193, 196, 197, 204, 207, 211, Shalyapin, Fyodor 24, 55
238, 240, 243, 250, 251, 259, 288; 161, 164, Shchukin bros. 11, 67-9, 70, 83, 85, 88, 120,
165, 173, 175, 178, 17Q, 243 145, 146, 173, 174

295
1

Shchuscv, Alexei 264 185, 186, 200, 202, 204, 208, 252, 258, 265,
Shishkin, Ivan 16 268; 10-13, 22-9, 39, 40, 122-5, t.41, 142,
Shterenberg, David 228, 230, 232 146-9, 239-43
Shwartz, Vyacheslav 21-2 Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri 83, 89, 91, 100
Sisley, Alfred 68, 83, 89 'Tramway V
exhibition 160, 178, 194, 202,
Slavophile movement 10 204
Snegurochka 18, 24; ;/, 12 Tretyakov, Pavel 1
'Socialist Realism' 265 Trubctskoi, Pavel 98
Somov, Konstantm 39, 46, 50, 52, 61, 118; Typography 47-8, 252, 253-4, 257-8, 259,
32 269-70; 246-56
Stanislavsky, Konstantm 24
State Exhibitions 236, 238, 240, 250, 254 Udaltsova, Nadezhda 193, 196, 197, 207, 2}};
'Stcfanos/Vanok' exhibition 111 172
Stelletsky,Dmitri 50, 71, 100 'Union of Russian Artists' 72, 90
Stcnberg bros. 202, 252; 247 'Union of Youth' 115, 136, 146, 148, 153,
Stepanova, Varvara 238, 240, 243, 250-1, 256, 160, 168, 172, 185, 189, 236
259, 268; 229, 244 Utkin, Alexei 50, 78, 80, 83
Dc Stijl movement 260, 275, 276
'The Store' exhibition 211, 212 Vallotton, Felix 51, 82
Stravinsky, Igor 56, 67 Vasnetsov bros. 14, 17, 18, 20, 23, 24, 33, 48,
Stroganov family 18 50; 8, 11, 12
Sudeikin 78 Vclde, Henry van de 48
Suetin 245; 214, 215 Venice 32, 38
Suprematism 6, 69, 80, 97, 103, 109, 141, Vcrlaine, Paul 48
I58ff., 185, 204 If., 234, 236, 240, 245, 254, Vesnin, Alexander 176, 202, 240, 243, 250,
269 252, 265; 242
Sunkov, Vassily 22, 29; 9; Boyarina Morosova Victory over the Sun (opera) 158, 185, 186;
22; 9 122-5
Surrealism 155, 187 Vienna 65, 118, 119: Secessionist 49, 86 group
Svomas see Petrograd Free Studios Vitebsk 187, 234, 240-1, 249, 253, 254
Les Sylphides 56 Vlaminck, Maurice de 88
Symbolism 39, 43, 48, 51, 57, 61, 62, 65, 70, Volkonsky, Prince Sergei 51-2
71-2, 76, 80, 102, 115, 143 Voloshin, Maximilian 85-6
Vrubcl, Mikhail 15, 29, 31-6, 44, 50, 56, 60,
Tairov, Alexander 200, 202, 252, 265 71, 74, 78, 80, 100; 7, 10, 17-21; Dance of
Talashkino estate & workshops 43-4; 5 Tamara 32; 18
'The Target' exhibition 136, 146, 153 Vmllard, Edouard 70, 82, 83, 89, 103, 128, 145
Tatlin, Vladimir 6, 27, 96, 97, 109, 133, 135,
16783, 195, 196, 204, 206-16 passim, 219, 'Wanderers' 6, 9-12, 22, 29, 33-4, 39, 40, 55,
220, 224, 225, 231-4 passim, 247, 248, 250, 70, 247, 265, 271
251, 259, 260-1, 264, 276; 94-7, 141, 142, Wilde, Oscar 62, 115
144, 146-56, 158-60, 230, 233, 234; portrait World of Art magazine 29, 40, 43, 44, 46, 47,
of 99; photograph of 230; Bottle 178-9; 48, 51, 56, 65, 120
150; Composition from a Nude 169, 172; 144; 'World of Art' movement 37-67 passim, 70-1,
'Corner Reliefs' 181, 207; 158, 160; Letatliti 72, 76, 99, 100, 118, 170
glider 180, 182, 183, 260; 159; Monument to Wright, Frank Lloyd 276
the 1 1 lid International 225-6; 203; 'Painting
Reliefs' & reliefs 176-83 passim; 150-6; Yakulov, Georgy 72, 193, 194, 196, 202, 214,
Relief (1914) 180; 153 252, 265, 276; 240, 241 ;
portrait of 86
Taunde Palace Exhibition (1905) 54 Yakunchikova, Maria 20
Tclyakovsky 52-3 Yavlensky, Alexei 62, 116, 122
Tenisheva, Prince 43; 5; Princess 44, 47
Terasopol 100-1 Zhcverzhcycv, L. 115
Theatre, designs for 18, 23-4, 27, 35, 40, 42, Zorn, Anders 43
43, 50, 51, 54-7 passim, 71, 109, 135. 169-70, Zuloaga, Ignacio 43

296
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